Montana judge orders mental exam for murder suspect
A state judge has ordered a mental evaluation for a Colorado man charged with killing an eastern Montana teacher.
District Judge Richard Simonton on Monday ordered Michael Keith Spell committed to Montana State Hospital for up to 30 days at the request of his defense attorneys.
The examination could determine if Spell is fit for trial. His attorneys contend Spell is mentally disabled and unable to understand the case against him.
The 24-year-old from Parachute, Colo., is charged with felony murder and attempted kidnapping in the January 2012 death of Sidney High School teacher Sherry Arnold.
Simonton says that absent "extraordinary circumstances," he has no intention of rescheduling Spell's trial, scheduled to begin Jan. 6.
Co-defendant Lester Van Waters Jr., pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.