SIDNEY — The Sidney Police Department has called on the Federal
Bureau of Investigation for assistance in its search for missing
math teacher Sherry Arnold, 43.
"There is no information that it's an abduction, but obviously
that is the direction we are leading into," Chief Frank DiFonzo
said Monday. "We are not going to cease the search and rescue until
we cover the entire county and have done what we need to do."
FBI agents were in Sidney on Monday, and DiFonzo said the
department also plans to reach out to the state Division of
Criminal Investigation for help.
"We are working it jointly and allocating resources," said
Debbie Bertram, spokeswoman for the FBI, Salt Lake City
She said the FBI has "multiple agents" in Sidney to assist local
law enforcement. Should the investigation become an abduction case
and investigators find that the Canadian border was crossed, it
would become a federal investigation, Bertram said.
Arnold left her Sidney home at 6:30 a.m. Saturday to go for a
run and has not returned.
Of the evidence brought back by search parties, only a shoe
found Saturday was positively identified by the family as
The shoe was found east of the Sidney Sugars Inc. factory off
Holly Street east of town, one of the areas where Arnold goes
running. A witness reported seeing someone matching Arnold's
description that morning near where the shoe was found, Assistant
Police Chief Robert Burnison said.
Burnison said Monday's efforts started with searchers on the
ground. Aircraft and search dogs would be called on as needed, he
Though days have passed, her family has not given up hope.
"This is a wonderful woman," Gary Arnold said of his wife. "We
want her back, and we want her back healthy. I miss my wife."
Mayor Bret Smelser, who attends church with Arnold's parents,
said she is "a daughter of the community" whose disappearance
brought out the best in hundreds of residents from Sidney and
surrounding towns who have participated in the search.
"It's just been grueling," said Arnold's father, Ron Whited, who
runs a ranch outside of Sidney. "When you can't find someone and
you do find a shoe and you know that's where she was running,
something obviously wasn't right. I can tell you I would never
believe I would be looking for my daughter."
Whited said the family had considered posting a reward for
information in the case but was holding off for now one the advice
of law enforcement.
Sherry Arnold has been with the Sidney School District since
1993, teaching at the middle school and most recently the high
Superintendent Daniel Farr said Arnold teaches intermediate and
advanced mathematics and that her teaching is "nothing short of
"She is the kind of person you want in front of your kids," Farr
said. "She is at school early working with the kids and at school
late working with the kids. She does what she has to do to make
Arnold's husband can attest that she uses the same care on their
blended family of five children back home — all of whom are either
in high school or have graduated.
Her positive influence inspired current and former students and
staff members to join nearly 1,100 community members who showed up
Sunday to continue the search for Arnold using horses, all-terrain
vehicles and personal planes.
The number of volunteers climbed to 1,200 by Monday afternoon. A
volunteer search team of 55 set out north, south and west of Sidney
as specialized teams of between 70 and 90 people fanned out in four
teams across rural land east of town toward the Yellowstone
The community support has been overwhelming to Arnold's family,
but not surprising. Arnold's roots in Sidney reach back farther
than anyone can remember — even to a great-grandfather who was the
chief of police.
"She's a major part of the whole community. Everyone is going
through it together," said Rhonda Whited, Arnold's sister. "The
community is in pain."
Smelser said the outpouring of volunteers shows Sidney has
remained a tight-knit community despite the changes brought by a
massive influx of oil field workers in recent years.
"My big fear as mayor is that we'll lose our small-town charm
and personality with the second wave of oil, but this is the way
Sidney has always been. It's an amazing community," he said.
"What we need right now is everybody's prayers," Smelser said of
Monday's search. "The window of opportunity is slipping on us."
Farr said Gary Arnold called him about his wife's disappearance
by 9:30 a.m. Saturday. By noon, the school had become a meeting
point for search volunteers. School officials began drafting a plan
for students that afternoon.
The staff was prepared for when school resumed Monday, Farr
said. Teachers with classes of kindergartners up to high school
seniors were given a letter to read to their first-period classes.
The rest of the hour was open for discussion.
"I wanted the first hour to be in front of their own teachers,"
Farr said. "They are the ones that can tell if someone is not doing
well. They already have that connection with the student."
Arnold's math classes are being staffed by school counselors for
now, though Farr said they probably will have a substitute in by
midweek. The school has reached out to sister schools in the
surrounding area who have agreed to provide support if the teachers
need time away from the classroom.
Arnold's husband also works in the school district as a federal
program coordinator alongside Farr as his "right hand man." He is
taking time off.
In his years at the police department, DiFonzo said this is the
first time he can remember investigating such a sudden
"This is the first issue where we had someone go missing without
some sort of background issue," he said. "It's just so sudden."
DiFonzo said he can feel the growing pains in Sidney — a town
of about 5,000 only 10 miles from the border with North Dakota — as
people pour in from out of town, chasing the money brought by the
Bakken oil boom.
He's seen it before — the last time there was an oil boom in the
"We have a lot of activity now at this part of the state,"
DiFonzo said. "A lot of out-of-state people are here to work, and
locals don't know them or recognize them."
The influx has increased crime, and DiFonzo said officers are
responding to more bar fights, domestic violence and drunken
"We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg," he said.
Susan Smith moved to Sidney seven years ago from Las Vegas to
escape violent crime. She was at the Richland Law and Justice
Center on Monday to pick up a concealed-weapon permit in light of
Smith owns an oil field cleaning service and spends a lot of her
time on the road alone.
"It's just been really scary on the road like that," Smith said.
"I love Sidney, it's a small town where you don't lock your doors,
but I am constantly going to lock them now."
Associated Press reporter Matthew Brown contributed to this