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Oklahoma Department of Human Services worker resigns during investigation

A child welfare worker at the center of an internal investigation at the Oklahoma DHS over a child's death has resigned from his job.
BY ANN KELLEY Published: July 16, 2011

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.

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