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Body identified as abducted teacher

BILLINGS, Mont. - A body found buried in North Dakota was identified Thursday as a Montana high school teacher who was abducted while jogging more than two months ago, the FBI said.

The remains of 43-year-old Sherry Arnold were recovered Wednesday near Williston, N.D., about 50 miles northeast of Sidney, the Montana town where she worked.

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Arnold’s sister, Rhonda Whited, said the family was being comforted and supported by friends in Sidney who were affected by the loss.

“That’s the only thing that gets anybody through. We’re all in this together,’’ Whited said. “We just kind of hang on to one another and keep praying.’’

Suspects Michael Spell, 22, and Lester Van Waters Jr., 48, have pleaded not guilty to aggravated kidnapping in the case.

The FBI declined to disclose details on where the body was found or what led investigators to the site. Authorities previously said one of the suspects tried before to lead FBI agents to the site but failed.

Confirmation that the remains found Wednesday were those of Arnold came after the body was taken to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula. An autopsy was planned.

Arnold was married to a fellow Sidney public schools employee, Gary Arnold, and together they raised five children from prior marriages.

The state charges against Spell and Waters can carry a death penalty if a victim is not released unharmed. A similar federal charge could also carry a death penalty upon conviction.

Court documents filed by the prosecutor in the case indicate Spell acknowledged his role in what an affidavit described as the crack cocaine-fueled abduction and killing of Arnold.

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