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Entries in Montana (17)

Monday
Nov052012

Death of Mauled Grizzly Bear Trainer Could Be an Accident

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOZEMAN, Mont.) -- A 24-year-old trainer was mauled to death Sunday while cleaning the Animals of Montana grizzly bear enclosure in Bozeman, Mont., officials say.

Animals of Montana, a wildlife casting agency, said it regards the death of Benjamin Cloutier, a former Pennsylvania resident, as a possible accident rather than an attack.

“We do not believe it was an attack. The victim has been with us since 2008. He was a highly experienced trainer, and it is unlikely that the bears caused his death,” Animals of Montana’s lead head trainer, Demetri Price, told ABC News.  “He had the right safety equipment and the right training to avoid that kind of attack. The investigators are looking into other causes of death. He might have accidentally slipped in the cage or hit his head prior to the mauling.”

Animals of Montana provides captive-bred wild animals for photography shoots and motion pictures. Adam, Griz and Yosemite were the “Trio of Grizzly Bears” that the organization said it proudly offered to clients.  Griz was put down so that Cloutier’s body could be retrieved.

“Griz and Yosemite look like they have been involved in the mauling. At the time we found our trainer, Griz had a grip on him. This was a life-and-death situation where I was putting my safety at risk while trying to save our trainer, whom we suspected might still be alive. Our initial abating techniques failed and destroying Griz was our last resort to retrieve our trainer in the safest way possible,” said Price, who told ABC News that the Animals of Montana owner Troy Hyde was on a trip to Los Angeles when the incident happened.

Hyde’s attorney, Chuck Watson, said that the cause of the Cloutier’s death is yet to be determined pending an autopsy. “The circumstantial evidence we have so far does not suggest a bear attack since there weren’t any defense wounds. Of course, we’ll have to wait for the autopsy results to find out what really happened,” said Watson.

The death is being investigated by the Gallatin County Coroner and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks wardens.

“We are the ones who issue licenses for facilities like Animals of Montana to keep a wild animal like a grizzly bear captive,” Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks warden’s Public Information Officer Andrea Jones told ABC News. “From the way it looks, the trainer and the facility did not violate any of our licensing rules and regulations at the time of the incident. The man was operating within the normal business hours and met all the regulations involved in his activity. It is up to the coroner and the Sheriff’s office to rule the cause of death.”

“We suffered a double loss,” said Price. “We lost a very valuable trainer, tragically, and we lost one of our most precious bears. We invested in Griz hours and hours of training and love and care.”

“It’s very tragic that they suffered these losses,” said attorney Watson. “Destroying the bear must have been a difficult decision since, believe me, the last thing these people want to do is kill an animal. But it was a life-and-death situation and it must have been devastating.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct152012

Missing Glacier National Park Hikers Found Safe, Officials Say

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WEST GLACIER, Mont.) -- A pair of hikers missing since at least Friday have been found in Glacier National Park, apparently uninjured, officials said.

Neal Peckens, 32, of Virginia and his college friend, Jason Hiser, 32, of Maryland, were found Monday at approximately 3:30 p.m. MT after earlier searches for them were hampered by a weekend of challenging winter weather, according to a news release on the Glacier National Park website.

The two hikers were reported missing by their families on Friday after they did not board a scheduled flight home from Montana.

"The men are doing well with no injuries," the park said in announcing the men had been found. "They were flown out of the backcountry and met family members anxiously awaiting their return."

Additional information on the rescue will be provided Tuesday, officials said.

The friends, who met 10 years ago in veterinary school at Virginia Tech, are experienced hikers, Hiser's mother, Sandy, told ABC News before learning the men had been found.

"They're both in very good physical condition," she said. "They're both intelligent young men, just lost. We're hoping for the best."

Park officials said the two men had a backcountry permit to hike the North Shore Trailhead at Two Medicine on Tuesday. Peckens and Hiser planned to camp overnight and return from the 17-mile loop on Wednesday, and then go on a day hike on Thursday.

Over the weekend, search crews had to battle wintery weather, including up to 18 inches of snow on trails, winds and snow drifts.

Aerial operations were also limited because of wind and low visibility, said Glacier National Park spokesperson Denise Germann.

On Sunday, search personnel found a used fire ring and tracks that they believe may be related to the hikers. The clues were found in Nyack Drainage, an area that contains dense and treacherous terrain, Germann said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug282012

Montana Man Killled During Bigfoot Hoax

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KALISPELL, Mont.) -- A Montana man dressed in a Bigfoot costume in an apparent attempt to provoke reports of sightings of the mythical creature was killed when he was struck by two cars on a highway.

Randy Lee Tenley, 44, of Kalispell, in Northwest Montana, was standing on U.S. Highway 93 Sunday night when a car hit him, according to the Montana Highway Patrol. Authorities said a second car then hit him as he lay in the road.  

“He had this Ghillie suit and was going to attempt to get the attention of passing motorists and, through I don’t know what means, make them feel like they saw Bigfoot or sasquatch,”  Montana Highway Patrol Officer Jim Schneider told ABC affiliate KTMF.

Schneider told the local newspaper the Daily Inter Lake that authorities determined Tenley’s motive, posing as Bigfoot, after interviewing the man’s friends.  Alcohol “may have been a factor,” in the incident, according to Schneider.

The military-style “Ghillie” suit worn by Tenley was a full-body suit made of strips of camouflage fabric, making it difficult for drivers to spot him.  The suit is typically used by military members to camouflage snipers in combat.

The two vehicles that struck Tenley were driven by teenage girls, one age 15 and one age 17, police said.

Bigfoot and Sasquatch are names given to mysterious, mythical ape-like creatures that some people believe inhabit forests. The theory is largely discounted by scientists but the legend has persisted, even giving rise to its own TV show, Finding Bigfoot, on Animal Planet.

In May, a group of high school students said they may have come close to Bigfoot during a class project in the Idaho wilderness.  A 38-second YouTube video shot in April in the Grand River area of Northeast Ohio claims to show a large, dark and hairy creature running across a path in the woods that many have proposed could be Bigfoot.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun152012

Hitchhiking Writer Shot Himself, Montana Cops Say

Thinkstock/Getty Images(VALLEY COUNTY, Mont.) -- A hitchhiker who claimed he was shot while researching a book on the kindness of strangers has admitted to police that he shot himself, authorities said Friday.

Ray Dolin, 39, admitted Thursday night shooting himself in the arm and making up the story about being shot by a stranger.

“Mr. Dolin made a full confession himself,” says Valley County Sheriff Glen Meier.  The sheriff says the district attorney is investigating the incident and says charges could be filed.

Dolin, who is from West Virginia, said he was writing a book about the kindness of strangers.

The aspiring author, who was making his way across the country allegedly doing research for his book, told police he was wounded in a drive-by shooting Saturday night while hitchhiking along a rural Montana highway. The report triggered a massive manhunt for the shooter.

Meier’s team began to canvas the area and eventually arrested Lloyd Christopher Danielson III, 52, who they believe was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time.

“I’m very glad my guys were able to apprehend the suspect,” Meier said at the time of the arrest.  Danielson, who’s bail was set at $100,000, was subsequently freed after a further examination of his vehicle and alibi.

“After Mr. Danielson was cleared of the wrongdoing, we moved the investigation into another direction,” the sheriff told ABC News.  Meier and his team then pressed the alleged victim who confessed soon after.

Meier says the hoax stretched his limited resources.

“I have no idea how much it cost us, but, it’s going to come to a lot of money,” he said.

Meier says there are a number of other crimes, such as a sexual assault, that his seven deputies could have been spending more time on. “My guys work their tails off and we really didn’t need something like this to happen,” he said.

Dolin wouldn’t have been the first author to drum up a storyline.  In 2006, James Frey’s best-selling memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” about an alcoholic going through the recovery process was lambasted after an investigation by the investigative website the Smokinggun.com found most of his chronicle was false.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar222012

Body Identified as Missing Montana Teacher

Facebook(WILLISTON, N.D.) -- A woman's remains found outside Williston, N.D., have been identified as Sherry Arnold, a Montana teacher who went missing while out on a jog the morning of Jan. 7, the FBI said.

"The Medical Examiner's Office at the Montana State Crime Lab has identified the remains as Sherry Arnold of Sidney, Mont.," read a written statement by Deborah Dujanovic Bertram, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Salt Lake City Division.

On Tuesday, agents from an FBI evidence response team and local police began to recover the remains of a female found near Williston, N.D., a prior FBI statement said. Williston is about 45 miles from Sidney.

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Two Colorado men are in custody in the 43-year-old Arnold's disappearance, charged with aggravated kidnapping.

The location of the body across the state line from where the kidnapping occurred means there could be federal charges against the two suspects in the case, Michael Keith Spell, 22, and Lester Van Waters Jr., 48, both of Parachute, Colo.

Spell and Waters pleaded not guilty last month to one count each of aggravated kidnapping during an arraignment in state district court in Sidney. They face a possible death sentence under Montana law if convicted.

Court documents filed by the prosecutor in the case indicate Spell has confessed to a role in a crack-fueled abduction and presumed killing of Arnold. Authorities have said Spell attempted to take FBI agents to the site, but could not find it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar212012

Body Found Is Possibly Missing Montana Teacher Sherry Arnold

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(WILLISTON, N.D.) -- Investigators believe they have found the body of a Montana teacher who went missing while out for a jog on the morning of Jan. 7.

"While a positive identification has not been made at this time, it is believed the remains are those of Sherry Arnold," said a statement by David Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI's Salt Lake City Division and Frank DiFonzo, the police chief in Arnold's hometown of Sidney, Mont.

On Tuesday, agents from an FBI evidence response team and local police began to recover the remains of a female found near Williston, N.D., the statement said. Williston is about 45 miles from Sidney.

The remains are being sent to a lab to confirm the identity and police said they would not release any further details.

"We want to thank God for all the amazing people and their prayers, help and continued support in bringing Sherry home to her family," Arnold's aunt, Janet Earhardt, told ABC News Wednesday.

Two Colorado men are in custody in Arnold's disappearance, charged with aggravated kidnapping.

The location of the body across the state line from where the kidnapping occurred means there could be federal charges against the two suspects in the case, Michael Keith Spell, 22, and Lester Van Waters Jr., 47, both of Parachute, Colo.

Spell and Waters pleaded not guilty last month to one count each of aggravated kidnapping during an arraignment in state district court in Sidney. They face a possible death sentence under Montana law if convicted.

Court documents filed by the prosecutor in the case indicate Spell has confessed to a role in a crack-fueled abduction and presumed killing of Arnold. Authorities have said Spell attempted to take FBI agents to the site but could not find it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb192012

Montana Teacher Killed by Two Men High on Crack-Cocaine

Comstock/Thinkstock(BILLINGS, Mont.) -- A crack-cocaine induced high led two men to kidnap and choke Montana school teacher Sherry Arnold to death, according to prosecutors.

In an affidavit filed Friday, Richland County prosecutors allege Lester Waters, 44, was high on crack while driving with Michael Spell, 22, from Colorado to find work in the oil fields of nearby South Dakota. That’s when Waters began talking about kidnapping and killing a woman.

According to the affidavit,  posted by a local television station KTVQ, Spell told police Waters “was capable of doing anything” while on crack and that it “brought the ‘Devil’ out in him.”

Once the two saw Arnold on the morning of Jan. 7, Spell told police, Waters told him to grab her and pull her into their car, according to the affidavit.

Waters then allegedly strangled her in the back seat and together they buried her body in an old farmstead in South Dakota using a shovel Waters had purchased at Walmart, the affidavit said. Arnold’s body has not yet been found.

Spell told police Waters threatened to kill him and his family if he ever revealed what had happened, the affidavit said. Spell allegedly did tell his girlfriend, Angel Cruz, though, and she led investigators to the suspects.

The affidavit is based on the information allegedly provided by Spell during questioning by investigators.

The two men are scheduled to appear in court Feb. 28 to face charges of aggravated kidnapping, which could carry the death penalty.

Arnold, 43, was out for a run around 6:30 in the morning on Jan. 7, when she went missing. She was a math teacher for 18 years at Sydney High School.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan182012

Missing Montana Teacher: Suspects Have Lengthy Criminal Records

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(SIDNEY, Mont.) -- The two men charged with aggravated kidnapping in the disappearance of missing Montana teacher Sherry Arnold have had numerous run-ins with the law.

Though the FBI will not say what led them to Lester Vann Waters Jr., 47, and Michael Keith Spell, 22, the two men were taken into custody last week and are being held at the Williams County Correctional Center in Williston, N.D., while they await extradition to Montana.  Both men had been living in an unincorporated area near Parachute, Colo.

Waters has an extensive criminal record in Florida with charges including a weapons offense, narcotic possession, theft, trespassing and leaving the scene of a crash injury.  He has served time in Florida jails at least three times.

Records also show that Waters has used about a dozen aliases and has been charged with giving police a false name when arrested.

Spell was arrested and charged with drug possession, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and sexual contact without consent in Colorado in May 2007, but the charges were dropped for unknown reasons.

Investigators have remained tight-lipped about the details of the investigation, providing very little information about the connection between Waters and Spell or what led them to the conclusion that Arnold is dead.

FBI investigators have said they believe that Arnold is dead, but they have not yet been able to locate her body.

On Monday, investigators asked farmers and ranchers in remote areas of Montana and North Dakota to search their properties for disturbed soil or grass near vacant farms.  They believe Arnold could be buried somewhere in the area.

Arnold, 43, a married mother of two and stepmother of three, disappeared on Jan. 7 around 6:30 a.m. while jogging near her home in Sidney, Mont.  A single running shoe was the only trace left behind.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan162012

Two-State Search for Body of Missing Teacher Sherry Arnold

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(SIDNEY, Mont.) -- Land owners in Montana and North Dakota are searching their properties, looking for the body of missing Montana teacher Sherry Arnold.

The farmers and ranchers in these remote areas were asked by the FBI to check for disturbed soil or grass near vacant farms.

Investigators are saying that Arnold could be buried in a "shelter belt," rows of trees planted alongside farmland to protect the soil from wind.

"Property owners who discover something unusual are asked not to disturb the site and immediately contact the Williams County Law Enforcement Center," the FBI said in a statement.

Arnold, 43, a married mother of two and stepmother of three, disappeared on Jan. 7 around 6:30 a.m. while jogging near her home in Sidney, Mont. A single running shoe was the only trace left behind.

Two Colorado men are being held in connection to Arnold's disappearance. The men are Lester Vann Waters Jr., 47, and Michael Keith Spell, 22.

The two men are in the Williams County Correctional Center in Williston, N.D., as they await extradition to Montana.

Waters and Spell have been charged with aggravated kidnapping. The case is now a federal case because investigators believe Arnold was kidnapped from her hometown of Sidney, Mont., and taken across state lines.

The two men were taken into custody on Friday, but officials have released very few details about what led them to the men or the conclusion that Arnold is dead.

Sidney Mayor Bret Smelser said the tight-knit town is in shock.

"We're grieving," Smelser said. "We've got to get through that process. We've got to get through the closure."

Arnold's family is hoping to find Arnold so they can move closer to gaining some closure.

"We pray that we can find Sherry. We want it to be done," the Arnold family told "Good Morning America."

Sidney, a small town of roughly 5,000 people, has experienced an influx of out-of-town oil workers following the Bakken oil boom in North Dakota. Crime rates in the area have also swelled, with a rise in bar fights, domestic violence and drunk driving.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan152012

Sherry Arnold: 2 Men Charged With Aggravated Kidnapping in Montana

Giorgio Fochesato/Vetta/Getty Images(SIDNEY, Mont.) -- Two men have been charged with aggravated kidnapping in connection with the disappearance of Sherry Arnold, a Montana teacher and mother of five.

Authorities say the 43-year-old Arnold is dead, but have given no details on how she died or the names of the two men arrested.

"They still want information out of the two people that were arrested," said Brad Garrett, former FBI agent and ABC News consultant. "They don't want to compromise that until they get all of the information."

Arnold, a married mother of two and stepmother of three, disappeared last Saturday around 6:30 a.m. while jogging near her home in Sidney, Mont. A single running shoe was the only trace left behind.

Hundreds of community members turned out to help the Sidney Police Department and the FBI search for Arnold, who was a beloved math teacher at Sidney Public School. But it was an anonymous call to a tip line that gave investigators the break they needed.

One of the two men arrested is a 47-year-old man being held in nearby Williston, N.D. The other is a 22-year-old man found several miles away in Rapid City, S.D. Authorities have not revealed whether Arnold was targeted or the victim of a hit-and-run.

"The scary thing is it maybe just be random," said Garrett. "It may be that she was hit by accident, or that she was abducted."

Arnold's friends and family gathered to remember her at a memorial service Friday night.

"We would like to thank police, FBI, people of Sidney, the people around who have turned out to help, and the role they played in bringing Sherry back home," Arnold's husband, Gary Arnold, told ABC News. "It wasn't how we wanted her to come home, but she came home to us."

Sidney, a small town of roughly 5,000 people, has experienced an influx of out-of-town oil workers following the Bakken oil boom in North Dakota. Crime rates in the area have also swelled, with a rise in bar fights, domestic violence and drunk driving.

"We own the day, they own the night," Sidney Mayor Bret Smelser said of the oil workers and the increase in crime. "Unfortunately, Sherry was running in the early hours of the morning."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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