KHS teacher faces drug charges after neighbor turns up dead

A Kingston High School teacher is facing felony charges after, officials say, he sold hallucinogenic mushrooms to a neighbor who was later found dead.

Matthew T. DiDonna, 42, was arrested by state police at his home at 12 Wayside Drive in Hurley around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday. He is charged with felony counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, as well as unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation. Cops say a search of DiDonna’s residence turned up an unspecified quantity of psilocybin mushrooms and marijuana.

Matthew DiDonna.

DiDonna was arrested about four hours after a police and paramedics responded to a call of an “unresponsive male” at a house on DeWitt Mills Road close to DiDonna’s residence. Police said a resident of the home, Mark P. Conlin, was taken to Kingston Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. According to District Attorney Holley Carnright, police believe DiDonna sold hallucinogenic mushrooms to Conlin sometime Saturday night, not long before Conlin’s death. Conlin, a married father of three, worked as sales manager for a Kingston-based modular home company according to his obituary. Carnright said that Conlin had undergone an autopsy and authorities were awaiting the results of toxicology testing.


DiDonna, meanwhile, was arraigned in Hurley Town Court and sent to the Ulster County Jail on $20,000 bail. Officials at the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office said on Wednesday that DiDonna had posted bail and been released. Following his arrest, police contacted the Kingston City School District and by Monday, Dec. 10. DiDonna had been placed on paid leave from his duties as social studies teacher at Kingston High School. According to Kingston City School District Superintendent Paul Padalino, DiDonna would remain on leave pending the resolution of the criminal charges against him. Padalino added that state education law barred the school district from disciplining DiDonna without a formal hearing on specific charges of misconduct.

“The board cannot take action until they have more information,” said Padalino. “We’ll have to wait out the court situation because and arrest in itself is not sufficient grounds for discipline.”

In addition to his duties as a social studies teacher, Padalino said, DiDonna served as adviser to the school’s freshman class, helping to organize dances, fundraisers and other activities. Padalino said that DiDonna had been employed by the district for over 10 years.