Man Sentenced to 80 Years in Prison for Montana Jogger Murder

Lester Van Waters told Sherry Arnold's husband that he was "sorry for his loss" at a sentencing hearing on Monday

Photo: Kristi Angel/Billings Gazette/AP; Courtesy Arnold Family

Lester Van Waters was sentenced to 80 years in prison on Monday for his involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Sherry Arnold.

The mother of two disappeared early one cold January morning in 2012 while out jogging in the rural town of Sidney, Montana. Her body was found over two months later, buried in unattended farmland in Williston, North Dakota.

Van Waters, 50, was arrested along with Michael Keith Spell shortly after Arnold vanished. According to court documents, both men were reportedly high on drugs when the attack happened.

While Spell, 25, allegedly told authorities that Van Waters killed Arnold, a jailhouse informant testified that “Spell said he choked her out … pushed Sherry’s face into some water and drowned her to make sure she was dead.”

Spell later admitted that he was unsure if he or Waters killed Arnold.

The younger man reportedly acted on the older’s directive because Van Waters said “he wanted to have sex,” court documents state.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Van Waters told Arnold’s husband Gary before Montana District Judge Richard Simonton delivered the sentence, KPAX reports. “I truly am.”

While the judge said he acknowledged Van Waters’s remorse and believes that he did not commit the murder himself, he went on to say that he is responsible for Arnold’s death since Spell acted on Van Waters’s orders.

“I’ve never seen anybody so guilt-ridden,” Van Waters’s defense attorney Greg Jackson said, according to the Billings Gazette.

Still, Arnold’s husband says the apology doesn’t change anything. “It’s too late, it’s after the fact,” Gary Arnold said following the sentencing.

Van Waters and Spell initially pleaded not guilty to Arnold’s murder, but both eventually changed their pleas to avoid the death penalty.

Spell’s sentencing has not yet been set.

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