Ex-pro­fes­sor ac­cused of stalk­ing Ariz. fire crews takes plea deal

Yuma Sun - - NEWS -

FLAGSTAFF — A for­mer North­ern Ari­zona Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor could serve no more than 13 months in cus­tody for al­legedly stalk­ing mem­bers of hot­shot fire crews.

Melissa Ann San­tana faces 10 felony charges of stalk­ing and mak­ing false state­ments against at least 11 peo­ple, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the Flagstaff and Globe hot­shot crews, ac­cord­ing to court records.

Pros­e­cu­tors and de­fense at­tor­neys have agreed to a deal in which San­tana would plead guilty to one count of false state­ments and two counts of stalk­ing. Seven other felony counts of sim­i­lar charges would be dis­missed, The Ari­zona Repub­lic re­ported.

If a fed­eral judge ac­cepts the plea agree­ment in Septem­ber, San­tana, who has been in cus­tody since Oct. 30, would be sen­tenced to time served, up to $150,000 resti­tu­tion to the vic­tims and as much as eight years of pro­ba­tion.

San­tana, a for­mer as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of in­te­rior de­sign at NAU, al­legedly sent threat­en­ing mes­sages to three hot­shot crew mem­bers, a stu­dent and oth­ers, ac­cord­ing to a fed­eral com­plaint.

The vic­tims re­ported be­ing ha­rassed by some­one us­ing var­i­ous false iden­ti­ties, email ad­dresses, so­cial me­dia ac­counts and tem­po­rary phone num­bers.

Fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors said they con­nected the ac­counts to San­tana through search war­rants of her phone and elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

At least one of the men told fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors he had a re­la­tion­ship with her that ended; oth­ers met her on­line.

The 36-year-old San­tana was a Flagstaff res­i­dent and mar­ried when the al­leged in­ci­dents took place from Feb. 1, 2015, to Sept. 22, 2017, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

One vic­tim told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he had a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with San­tana. Af­ter end­ing the re­la­tion­ship, he said his car was van­dal­ized, and he re­ceived sev­eral deroga­tory texts from un­known num­bers.

One text mes­sage read, “Why not be like the gran­ite moun­tain hot­shots and go die in the fire.”

The state­ment was a ref­er­ence to the 19 mem­bers of the Gran­ite Moun­tain Hot­shots who were killed in a 2013 wild­fire.

San­tana’s at­tor­ney, Stephen Wallin, de­clined com­ment on the al­le­ga­tions and the plea agree­ment.

San­tana was em­ployed at NAU for five years, but her em­ploy­ment ended Nov. 1, 2017, shortly af­ter she was ar­rested on Oct. 30 on stalk­ing charges.

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