2 men charged with kidnapping in teacher's death held in Williston

2012-01-14T10:00:00Z 2012-02-08T10:35:38Z 2 men charged with kidnapping in teacher's death held in WillistonBy ROB ROGERS and ZACH BENOIT Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette

SIDNEY -- Two men have been arraigned on charges of aggravated kidnapping in connection with the death of Sidney High School teacher Sherry Arnold and are being held in Williston, N.D., Sidney Police Chief Frank DiFonzo said Saturday morning.

Officials at the Williams County jail in Williston confirmed that two men are being held there on aggravated kidnapping charges but declined to release their names, citing an ongoing investigation by the FBI.

A jail official said that they have been instructed by the FBI to not release any information on the two men.

FBI spokeswoman Debbie Bertram said on Saturday that any information on the arraignments, including the men's names, would have to come "through the appropriate court, if that information is available."

It wasn't immediately clear when the arraignment happened and documents detailing it could not be obtained on Saturday.

Investigators in North Dakota are continuing to search the area and gather evidence in the case. DiFonzo called the rumors circulated Friday night that Arnold may have been killed in a hit-and-run type accident "all kinds of speculation."

DiFonzo said he expects the two men to be extradited to Sidney from Williston at some point. He didn't want to speculate on a timeline because of the ongoing federal investigation.

On Friday, officials announced that a 47-year-old man was in custody in Williston, N.D., and 22-year-old man was being questioned in South Dakota after a call came in to a tip line set up for information on Arnold's disappearance.

While investigators did not confirm it on Friday, Arnold's family and the Sidney school district said they had been informed that she was dead.

Sidney Mayor Bret Smelser said on Saturday that residents would like to know more as part of the grieving process, but they understand an investigation is ongoing.

"Evidently there's still more work to do," Smelser said. "People would like to have more information, but if that information is going to hinder the investigation, then we understand."

Arnold went missing on Jan. 7 during a morning run. County law enforcement officials, emergency responders and hundreds of citizens spent several days scouring the Sidney area looking for any sign of her.

The same day she went missing, searchers found what investigators and Arnold's family have confirmed to be one of her shoes, the only publicly acknowledged clue in the case.

Arnold was a popular math teacher at Sidney High School and a longtime resident of the community who lived there with her husband, Gary Arnold, and their five children from previous marriages.

After joining the search at midweek, the FBI said Arnold may have been abducted, although officials also said it was one of many possibilities under investigation.

Officials have remained tight-lipped about information in the case.

A tip line, which DiFonzo said received "dozens and dozens of tips," was set up to gather information, and on Friday it appeared to pay off.

"Today, as a result of a tip, we're able to announce that a significant breakthrough has been made," DiFonzo said at a Friday press conference.

At that meeting, he said that a 47-year-old man was in custody in Williston, N.D., and that a 22-year-old man was being questioned in Rapid City, S.D.

"We want to be together as a family," Karen Arnold Truax, Gary Arnold's daughter who lives in St. Paul, Minn., said on Friday. "We appreciate everything that everyone did to help us in this search. We are so heartbroken that this is the outcome. We just sincerely appreciate all the love and support that continues to come from the community."

On Friday evening, the community held a memorial service for Arnold at the high school gymnasium. Several hundred people -- friends, family, current and former students and local religious leaders -- attended.

"She was an amazing math teacher," former student Ashley Cooley said at the memorial. "She loved what she did and she loved her students. She had an amazing heart."

Smelser said the community has held three prayer vigils but he's not aware of another being planned.

"There's always church on Sunday," he said.

Despite the unknowns, he said the community is moving forward.

"We'll wait for the final evidence and then as a community we need to have a serious discussion to get us back to where we were and make us whole, to give us peace back in our hearts and a sense of security," he said.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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