Man who helped murder Sidney teacher in 2012 denied appeal; 100- - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Man who helped murder Sidney teacher in 2012 denied appeal; 100-year sentence upheld

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HELENA - Michael Spell, one of the two men accused of kidnapping and murdering Sidney school teacher Sherry Arnold, was denied his appeal on Wednesday.

The Montana Supreme Court affirmed Spell was mentally competent when he pleaded guilty in 2012. The court held that Spell knew at the time that his actions were wrong and he had the ability to stop himself from committing the crime, court documents state.

On Jan. 7, 2012, Arnold went missing after she had gone out for a morning jog along Holly Street in Sidney. On Jan. 11, 2012, law enforcement received a tip that Spell and a second man, Lester Waters, were responsible for Arnold’s disappearance.

Waters was arrested on Jan. 12, 2012, and Spell on Jan. 13, 2012. Arnold’s body was found on March 19, 2012, buried outside Williston, N.D.

Spell will continue to serve 100 years in prison, none of which are suspended, for deliberate homicide. He does not have a parole restriction as part of the sentencing, meaning he is eligible for parole in 25 years. 

Spell accepted a plea deal in October 2014 that spared him from the death penalty in exchange for his admission to the charge of deliberate homicide.  

Spell's co-defendant, Waters, 50, was also sentenced to 100 years in prison, with 20 of the years suspended.  Waters pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide in August 2013. 

Plea agreements for both men dropped a felony kidnapping charge. 

Mental health officials determined Spell has a learning disability, but he is not so disabled that he could not be held accountable for his actions. 

The court also ruled that sentencing Spell, a person with some intellectual disabilities, to prison is not a violation of the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

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