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Man accused of murder set to appear in court

A Tahlequah man accused of first-degree murder is slated to appear in Cherokee County District Court this week.

Matthew Kyle Santana, 33, was charged with first-degree murder and distribution of a controlled dangerous substance after he allegedly supplied 29-year-old Dakota Hiatt a lethal dose of fentanyl Jan. 1 2023.

According to an affidavit, Tahlequah police officers were dispatched to Clear Creek 66 store on East Allen Road to investigate Hiatt’s death. Sgt. Lane Cobb advised that Hiatt was found in the store's restroom.

“Sgt. Cobb advised that it appeared to be an overdose death due to the paraphernalia and suspected drugs found inside the bathroom,” Det. Josh Girdner stated in the affidavit.

Hiatt’s cell phone and a coin purse were found in his pocket. The coin purse also contained drug paraphernalia. Det. Girdner notified Hiatt’s family and was later contacted by his brother, who said he was able to access Hiatt’s Cash App.

“[He] advised that he learned that shortly before Dakota’s death, he sent $50 to a man by the name of Matthew Santana,” the affidavit stated.

Girdner obtained video footage from the store and could see Hiatt, Santana, and a woman enter the store together. Hiatt could be seen entering the restroom and not coming out.

Through his investigation, Girdner was able to determine that Hiatt’s sent Santana $50 via Cash App seven minutes before Hiatt was seen entering the restroom. Santana called Girdner after he was informed that detectives needed to speak with him.

“I asked Matthew if he would be willing to meet me and he advised no because he had a felony warrant for his arrest,” Girdner stated in the affidavit.

Santana agreed to a written statement that Girdner could pick up at Santana’s family member’s house. According to Girdner, Santana said he was going to “get rid” of his phone after their conversation because he was “getting tired of paying for it.”

Santana was arrested Jan. 18, 2023, for his warrant by the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office and Girdner met him at the Cherokee County Detention Center to speak with him. Santana agreed to speak with the detective without an attorney present.

Girdner said he noticed inconsistencies in Santana’s story. Girdner told the man that video footage showed him, Hiatt, and a woman inside the store. Santana claimed that Hiatt left the store to get “something” from a man while Santana and the woman stayed inside the store.

“Toward the end of the interview, Matthew then changed his story again by stating that he did in fact know what Dakota had gotten from [the man] because Dakota gave him some. When asked what it was, Matthew advised fentanyl,” the affidavit stated.

Girdner obtained a search warrant for Hiatt’s cell phone and reviewed his and Santana’s Facebook messages dated Jan. 1, 2023. Girdner also obtained a search warrant for their Facebook accounts.

Girdner noted that majority of messages linked to Santana’s Facebook account were about the “purchase and sales of illegal drugs.”

“I noticed while reading through the conversations Matthew had with other people, most of the time Matthew appeared to be looking to buy fentanyl,” Girdner stated in the affidavit. “One thing I found interesting is that on the day of and the day prior to Dakota’s death, Matthew messaged several people claiming he had fentanyl and was trying to sell it.”

The man Santana said met with him and Hiatt at the store spoke with Girdner and he stated Hiatt called and messaged him several times Jan. 1, 2023, asking if he could get him fentanyl. The man said Hiatt said he was at the store and wanted to meet him if he was able to get ahold of the drug. The man said he told Hiatt he didn’t have the drug.

On May 18, 2023, the Medical Examiner’s report stated Hiatt’s cause of death was fentanyl toxicity. An arrest warrant was requested for Santana for felony murder, and he was charged by District 27 District Attorney Jack Thorp May 24, 2023.

Santana pleaded not guilty June 21, 2023, during his initial appearance. A preliminary hearing was scheduled Jan. 4 but the case was reset for Jan. 11. Santana is represented by court-appointed attorney Rachel Dallis. First Assistant District Attorney Eric Jordan is prosecuting the case.

Santana is slated to appear in court before District Judge Doug Kirkley Thursday, Feb. 29.


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