Psychologist: Montana murder case suspect unfit for trial

SIDNEY, Mont. — A defense expert says a Colorado man seeking to avoid trial in the murder of a Montana teacher is easily confused and has the mental capacity of an 11-year-old.

Psychologist Greg Olley told a Sidney, Mont., courtroom Monday that 24-year-old Michael Keith Spell of Parachute is unfit for trial in the January 2012 killing of local teacher Sherry Arnold.

Olley says Spell cannot comprehend the legal issues in the case.

However, defense testimony also revealed that doctors at Montana State Hospital suspected Spell was pretending when he could not answer some questions during an evaluation.

A co-defendant has pleaded guilty, and Spell could face the death sentence if convicted.

The case has highlighted the steep social costs of a Northern Plains oil boom that drew the defendants to the region looking for work.


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