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8:31 PM Tue, Nov. 20th

Ex-professor accused of stalking fire crews takes plea deal

Melissa Ann Santana

Melissa Ann Santana

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — 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.


Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com