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Defendant in Arnold trial back in jail

SIDNEY, Mont. — The defendant in the trial for the murder of Montana teacher Sherry Arnold has returned to jail after a mental evaluation at the state hospital.

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Michael Spell, 24, was at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs since November, The Associated Press reported.

Richland County court clerk Janice Klempel said there isn’t yet a new date set for the trial. It was scheduled to start Jan. 6 but was continued for the purposes of completing the mental evaluation, she said.

The trial has already been moved to Glendive, Mont., after defense attorneys argued Spell couldn’t get a fair trial in Sidney, a small community that was captivated by the disappearance of math teacher Arnold.

Co-defendant Lester Van Waters Jr. pleaded guilty in August. His deal spares him of the death penalty while requiring him to testify against Spell at trial. Waters Jr. was also sentenced to 100 years in prison.

Authorities have said the pair grabbed Arnold off a street in Sidney after a drug-fueled drive from Colorado to the Bakken in search of work.

Spell and Waters Jr. allegedly choked Arnold and drowned her in a puddle. Her body was found two months later in Williston.

Katherine Lymn