Posted: Feb 23, 2012 4:09 PM by Q2 News | KTVQ.com
BILLINGS- The following is a timeline of events known to have taken place in Sherry Arnold's disappearance.
The events compiled in this timeline come from a court affidavit based on information from a statement made by one of the suspects, Michael Spell, and physical evidence such as surveillance videos and receipts.
-Michael Spell and Lester Van Waters, Jr. leave their homes in Parachute, Colorado with an expressed interest in seeking employment in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota near the Montana border.
-The men leave in a green 1993 Ford Explorer with Colorado license plates.
-Spell later tells investigators that during the two day drive to Montana, Waters had smoked crack cocaine throughout the entire trip and that Waters told Spell that the drug brought out "the devil" in him.
-It was during the trip when Spell says Waters began talking about kidnapping and killing a female.
-Gary Arnold, a resident of Sidney, Montana, returns home from a walk and notices that his wife, Sherry Arnold, is not home.
-Gary assumes his wife is out jogging, which she normally does in the morning for about 30 minutes.
-At approximately 6:34a.m., a security camera outside of the Ranger Lounge catches a dark colored Ford Explorer drive by.
-Two minutes later, at approximately 6:36a.m., Sidney resident Lonnie Lyttle also drives by the Ranger Lounge's camera.
-Lyttle tells authorities when asked on January 9th that while he drove south down Central Avenue approaching Holly Street, he saw a jogger traveling east on Holly near where evidence was found of Sherry Arnold's abduction.
-Spell says that he and Waters also observed a jogger, Sherry Arnold, and Waters identified her as a person to kidnap. Waters drove down the road and pulled over, telling Spell to grab the woman as she passed. Spell grabbed her and threw her in back of the Explorer.
-Waters then climbed into the back of the vehicle and, according to Spell, "choked her out".
-At 7:25a.m., Waters picks up $100 via Western Union from the Valley View IGA in Sidney.
-Gary Arnold becomes concerned and begins searching around Sherry Arnold's normal running routes. After he does not find her, Gary Arnold informs family, friends and local law enforcement that Sherry had gone missing.
- A search begins for Arnold made up of 100 people, including 40 members of the Montana National Guard and two planes searching by air.
- One of Sherry Arnold's running shoes is later recovered. Spell will tell the FBI that the shoe slipped off of Sherry while she struggled against him. Waters had punished Spell for losing the shoe by throwing his (Spell's) knit hat with tassels into a nearby ditch. The hat was also recovered.
-Spell says he and Waters travel to Williston, North Dakota. The trip, on average, takes approximately 50 minutes to complete if the driver does not make a stop.
**COURT DOCUMENTS SHOW THERE IS A DISCREPANCY BETWEEN WHAT SPELL TELLS INVESTIGATORS AND THE VIDEO AND RECEIPT EVIDENCE GATHERED BY INVESTIGATORS **
-According to court documents, at 9:36p.m., Waters purchased bread, bologna and a shovel from the Walmart in Williston.
-At 9:54p.m., video surveillance shows the green Explorer leave the Walmart parking lot.
-Reviewed surveillance video form Lonnie's Truck Stop, located across the street from the Walmart, shows the green Explorer arrive at the gas pumps at 9:58p.m. . Spell is seen retrieving paper towel and wiping down the windows of the vehicle.
-Spell says it was at Lonnie's Truck Stop that they threw the clothes that Sherry Arnold was wearing into a dumpster. Spell also says that Sherry Arnold was dead underneath a blanket in backseat of the car when this happened.
-Spell says following dumping Sherry Arnold's clothes, he and Waters drove to a rural area outside of Williston and dropped off Sherry Arnold's body.
-It is at that point that Spell says the two men returned to Williston and purchased a shovel at Walmart.
-After buying the shovel at Walmart, Spell says he and Waters returned to Sherry Arnold's body, dug a two or three foot hole, and placed the body in the hole.
-Spell says the grave site was at the end of a shelter belt, which is a line of trees used as a windbreak, on an old farmstead in a rural and isolated part of Williston.
-The FBI becomes involved in the search for Sherry Arnold.
-The Department of Justice issues a Missing Persons Alert for Sherry Arnold. During the previous weekend, nearly 1,000 people turn up for the search effort, and some are turned away.
-The Williston Police Department pulls over Spell and Waters in a green Ford Explorer following a bar fight in a strip club. The officer noted that it appeared the men were living out of the car.
-Waters and Spell go to the Walmart in Williston and return the shovel they purchased on January 7th.
-Spell says he calls his girlfriend, Angel Cruz, and other family members because he was scared Waters would kill him. Spell tells his family about his involvement in Sherry Arnold's death. He tells family members he saw missing person posters for Sherry Arnold and felt remorse.
-Spell says he then stole Water's cell phone and began hitchhiking until he reached Rapid City, South Dakota.
-A tip line is set up by investigators for information leading to the whereabouts of Sherry Arnold (406) 433-4027. Also, a "Help Find Sherry Arnold" page on Facebook gains popularity.
-Investigators gain a lead in the case when a tipster calls law enforcement and says that Cruz told them that Spell had been stranded in North Dakota and was trying to get home by obtaining money for a bus ticket. The tipster also told investigators that Cruz told her Spell had admitted involvement in kidnapping and murdering Sherry Arnold.
-The tipster also tells investigators that Spell told Cruz he and Waters were high on drugs when they abducted Sherry Arnold.
-Search efforts for Sherry Arnold are suspended until authorities receive new information.
-The FBI contacts Cruz and she confirms the information she told the tipster and tells them that Spell is currently in Rapid City.
-At 2:21p.m., Waters buys a new cell phone in the Walmart in Williston, North Dakota.
-Police in Williston locate the green Ford Explorer and are able to identify Waters.
-At 10:45p.m., police detain Waters at Lonnie's Truck Stop in Williston, North Dakota. They advise Waters that he is being questioned in a homicide investigation. Later that night, Waters decline interview without an attorney.
-Spell is located and interviewed by the FBI in Rapid City, South Dakota and tells investigators the details provided in the above timeline.
- The Sidney School District posts on their website that it had informed students and teachers that Sherry Arnold had died. The school says they were informed by Sherry Arnold's family.
-A press conference is held by the Sidney Police in conjunction with the FBI. Sidney Police chief Frank DiFonzo says a 47-year-old man is in custody in Williston, North Dakota and a 22-year-old man has been detained for questioning in Rapid City, South Dakota-- both in connection to Sherry Arnold's disappearance.
-Sidney Police Chief Frank DiFonzo confirms that the two men in custody were arraigned on charges of aggravated kidnapping and are being held at the Williams County Jail in Williston, North Dakota. Bond is set for the men at $2.5 million dollars.
-The men being held on the charges of aggravated kidnapping are identified as Lester Van Waters Jr. and Michael Spell.
-Montana and North Dakota law enforcement, as well as the FBI, ask landowners in northeast Montana and northwest North Dakota to look for disturbed soil on their property. Authorities say they believe Sherry Arnold is deceased but they have not recovered a body. They believe her body may be located near a shelter belt of trees.
-The original citation issued to Waters and Spell from the Sidney Police Department is released. The citation sets the time of the alleged kidnapping at 6:40a.m. at 900 East Holly Street, which is located along the truck route Arnold may have been jogging.
-Waters and Spell appear in District Court and bond is set at $2.5 million dollars for each man. The men did not agree to be extradited to Montana, so a formal extradition hearing must be scheduled.
-Montana's Governor, Brian Schweitzer, signs extradition requests for Spell and Waters.
-North Dakota's Governor, Jack Dalrymple, signs the extradition request from Governor Schweitzer.
-People from around the world participate in virtual runs for Sherry Arnold.
-Waters and Spell are extradited to Montana and make initial court appearances in Sidney.
-Court documents are released detailing investigation into Sherry Arnold's disappearance.
-Waters and Spell are scheduled to appear in District Court in Sidney, Montana for preliminary hearings.
** The discrepancy between Spell's story and the physical evidence happens on the evening of January 7th. Spell claims the men first went to the truck stop with Sherry Arnold's body before dropping it off and going to Walmart to purchase a shovel. Video surveillance shows Spell and Waters at Lonnie's Truck Stop at approximately 9:58p.m.. A receipt found on Waters shows the shovel used to bury Sherry Arnold was purchased at 9:36p.m. on January 7th.