U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Oklahoma
(918) 684-5100
December 16, 2015

Idabel Man Sentenced to Life, Funeral Expenses and $20,000 Fine for Beating Death of 2-Year-Old Girl

MUSKOGEE, OK—The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, announced that DAKOTA LANE WILLISTON, age 20, of Idabel, Oklahoma was sentenced in federal court today to life without the possibility of release in connection with the 2013 beating death of a two-year-old girl from Idabel, Oklahoma.

WILLISTON, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, was indicted in December 2014 with Murder in the First Degree in Indian Country Committed During the Perpetration of Child Abuse, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1111, 1151 and 1153. After a seven-day trial in June, 2015, a federal jury deliberated approximately three and one-half hours before finding Williston guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the unlawful killing of Payton Cockrell, a two-year-old, non-Indian female, during the perpetration of child abuse, as defined by Title 18, United States Code, Section 1111(c)(3).

The charge arose from an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office and the Choctaw Nation Tribal Police. The case was tried in federal court because the crime occurred at Williston’s family home located on a restricted Choctaw allotment. WILLISTON and the victim were not related.

The toddler was the daughter of WILLISTON’S live-in girlfriend. According to testimony at trial, on the morning of July 23, 2013, WILLISTON insisted his girlfriend leave the child with him instead of taking her to day care. The child was fine when the mother left for work and the child remained in the sole care of WILLISTON. At about noon, Williston and his family called 911 when he claimed he awoke to find the child unresponsive. The child was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital. Medical experts at trial testified that the toddler suffered extensive fatal injuries to her torso and head as a result on blunt force trauma. Every internal organ was damaged and she suffered massive internal injuries and bleeding.

The Honorable Ronald A. White, District Judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, in Muskogee, presided over the sentencing and trial. In addition to the life sentence, Judge White also imposed restitution for the funeral expense and a $20,000 fine. Assistant United States Attorneys Dean Burris and Linda Epperley represented the United States.

The defendant was remanded into the custody of the United States Marshal Service pending transportation to the designated federal facility at which he will serve his nonparoleable sentence.

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