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Law enforcement officials confirmed on Friday morning that Sherry Arnold, the missing Sidney High School math teacher, is dead and that a suspect is in custody.

"We just want some privacy and some time to process what has happened," said Karen Arnold Truax, Gary Arnold's daughter from St. Paul, Minn. Gary is the husband of Sherry Arnold.

"We want to be together as a family. 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."

A private prayer service for school staff will be held at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Sidney, according to Pastor David Huskamp.

 "The goal is to bring some hope and encouragement and provide a time for staff to be with each other," Huskamp said. "There's a lot of hurt. We want to bring them some comfort."

An interdenominational prayer service for the community will start at 7 p.m. Friday at the Sidney High School gymnasium.

Kim Kain, 37, assistant manager at Millers' Corner, a gas and convenience store in Sidney, said, "It's sad for the whole community. We are not used to this stuff happening in Sidney. It's sad but it's shocking. It's just downright shocking."

Kain's son, Kody, 16, had Sherry Arnold for a teacher.

The beloved teacher's death has taken a toll on the student body though many don't say much.

"You know how kids are," Kain said. "They're sad, too."

Kain said the incident has put the entire community on edge, especially women. Many are buying Mace, halting their solo activities outdoors and breaking out of their routine schedules.

"Women are just more being much more cautious," Kain said.

"We're getting some closure," said Sidney Mayor Bret Smelser. "That's the only good news we've had in the past three or four days. It's always difficult when something like this happens on your watch."

The news of Arnold's death was especially difficult, Smelser said, because he knows Arnold and her parents well. They all attend Trinity Lutheran Church in Sidney.

Smelser said that in coming weeks and months, the community will have to discuss how to best move forward. Some are calling for increased law enforcement, which is difficult given the city's budget constraints, he said. Another option might be reinstituting the community watch program that has fallen by the wayside.

Some people are rushing to get handguns, Smelser said.

"My job is to keep the community whole," he said. "My job right now is to make sure the community stays whole and that means assimilating our new neighbors coming to town. Let's not overreact."

The mayor said one of the "greatest" things to surface out of the tragedy is that all of Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota were concerned and were out looking for Arnold.

UPDATE 11 a.m.: FBI spokeswoman Debbie Bertram confirmed that law enforcement officials have taken one man into custody and are questioning another, following an anonymous tip.

Arnold's death comes at the end of two gut-wrenching weeks, said Wade VanEvery, executive director of the Sidney Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.

"I think we're overwhelmed in Sidney right now because we've had a lot of tragedy," Van Every said. "This one is especially close to us because everyone knew Sherry. It's not the kind of thing we ever imagined would happen in Sidney."

The string of tragedy began on Dec. 27 when the chamber's administrative assistant lost her family in a fatal car accident.

"That rocked the whole community," he said.

On New Year's Eve, 46-year-old Sidney firefighter Ray Verhasselt was killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling north of Cooke City.

And, on Tuesday, a stove fire at the Triangle Nite Club destroyed the building. A woman inside the building at the time of the fire was able to escape without injury.

"I know nothing of the particulars about Sherry's death but I do know that in this day and age, those things can happen," he said. "All communities in time will have tragedies like this."

UPDATE 10:45 a.m.: FBI spokeswoman Debbie Bertram confirmed that law enforcement officials have taken one man into custody and are questioning another, following an anonymous tip.

"The investigation to determine what happened to Ms. Arnold continues," she said in her statement.

Sidney Police Chief Frank DiFonzo will address the media about the new developments at 3 p.m. at the Richland County Law and Justice Center.

Law enforcement officials confirmed with Sidney School District on Friday morning that Sherry Arnold, the missing high school math teacher, is dead and that a suspect is in custody.

The notification came to the school at 9:30 a.m., following notification of Arnold's family, said Superintendent Daniel Farr.

"It's very sobering," he said.

The school has shortened its school day and canceled its Friday games with Laurel, he said.

"That's what the kids wanted," he said.

FBI and local law enforcement officials said earlier in the week they were investigating the possibility that Arnold, 43, was abducted from the town along the North Dakota border, which has been changing rapidly in recent years due to an oil boom.

The FBI set up an automated tip line Tuesday and received several tips.

Hundreds of residents, police, firefighters and others were organized to comb the town and surrounding countryside. Law enforcement officials also went door-to-door seeking information.

Arnold, a popular math teacher who grew up on a ranch outside Sidney, was married to another school system employee, Gary Arnold. The couple has five children from prior marriages, including two living at home and attending the same school where their mother worked for the past 18 years.

The school district played an active role in the search by lending buses to transport members of search teams and setting up a fund to defer expenses.

Mayor Bret Smelser said earlier this week the effort covered all of Sidney and surrounding areas of Richland County. He said federal agents had met with family members, including Arnold's parents, Ron and Sharon Whited, and pledged to press hard for answers.

"The promise they made Ron and Sharon was that they wouldn't give up until they had found something or found Sherry," Smelser said.

Contact Rob Rogers at or 657-1231.



Business Reporter

Business Reporter for the Billings Gazette.