SIDNEY, Mont. (AP) — A Colorado man's bid to avoid trial and a potential death sentence in the killing of an eastern Montana teacher goes before a state judge Monday to decide if the defendant is incompetent due to mental disability.

His attorneys say 24-year-old Michael Keith Spell has the mental capacities of a first-grader and is unfit for trial.

If Judge Richard Simonton agrees, Spell could be sent to a state institution and potentially eligible for eventual release.

He's charged with murdering Sherry Arnold on Jan. 7, 2012, after attempting to abduct her as she was jogging in Sidney, Mont. An accomplice pleaded guilty.

The case has highlighted the social costs of a Northern Plains oil boom that drew the men to the region looking for work. Crime rates spiked in Montana and neighboring North Dakota over the past several years.

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