CHANDLER — A state child welfare worker at the center of an investigation over a child's death has resigned from his job.
Wesley Priest, 36, of Shawnee, was placed on paid administrative leave, along with three other Department of Human Services workers, pending an internal investigation over the death of Serenity Anne Deal, 5. Another of the suspended workers, Donald Wheeler, 62, of Chandler, committed suicide earlier this week, police said.
Priest submitted his resignation June 1, making his last day Friday. He supervised Wheeler at the Lincoln County DHS office. Jennifer Shawn and Randy Lack, assigned to the Pottawatomie County DHS office, remain on leave.
Priest did not return messages for comment, and DHS officials offered no explanation for his resignation. Priest's wife, also a DHS employee, resigned, too.
Priest was a child welfare specialist assigned to a supervisory position in Lincoln County. He had worked for DHS since 1998.
Sheree Powell, spokeswoman for DHS, said the internal investigation is ongoing. She confirmed that federal investigators with the Office of the Inspector General are involved, but she would not comment further on their progress.
Serenity died of a head injury on June 4, about a month after child welfare workers from Pottawatomie County recommended she live with her father.
The recommendation came despite reports the girl was returning from visits with her father with bruises and black eyes, according to a report from the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth.
The report indicates there were disagreements between the case workers in Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties over Serenity's case. Wheeler reportedly opposed the girl living with her father, Sean Devon Brooks.
Brooks, 31, of Oklahoma City, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with Serenity's death. Her mother, Samantha Anne Deal, 21, is serving time in prison for sexually assaulting a young boy.
Serenity's maternal grandparents, Chuck and Annette Deal, of Chandler, said they tried to adopt her, but she was removed from their home in November 2010 by child welfare workers and put in foster care.
Annette Deal said DHS employees accused them of disobeying their orders by allowing Samantha Deal to have unsupervised visits with Serenity and her younger sibling.
The Deals have denied any wrongdoing.