Governor says Oklahoma given 1-year REAL ID extension

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The federal government will continue to recognize Oklahoma driver's licenses and identification cards as an acceptable form of ID for at least another year.

Gov. Mary Fallin announced on Friday that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has granted the state another extension, this one through October 2019. That means state licenses can still be used to board commercial flights or enter federal government buildings.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 to make driver's licenses harder to forge. Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill in 2007 forbidding compliance but approved legislation last year allowing officials to begin building a compliant system.

Fallin says Oklahoma is currently in compliance with 30 of the 43 requirements and is in partial compliance with a dozen others.

•••

Oklahoma emergency teacher certificates surpass 2,500

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Board of Education is approving hundreds of emergency teacher certificates as schools across the state struggle with a teacher shortage.

The board approved more than 400 certificates Thursday to school districts that lack qualified candidates to fill vacancies, The Oklahoman reported . The certificates allow people without a state teaching license to teach in a classroom for two years while they complete training.

Requests included 30 certificates for Tulsa Public Schools and 23 for Oklahoma City Public Schools. Moore, Western Heights, Midwest City-Del City, Putnam City, Norman, Yukon and Mustang districts also requested emergency certificates.

About 13 percent of teachers in the Oklahoma City district, or 328, have emergency certificates. The board has approved more than 2,500 certificates since June, up from 590 certificates issued over the previous year.

"We continue to feel the full brunt of the teacher shortage," state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said. "Districts still have certified positions open without qualified applicants to fill them.

Two-thirds of school districts that responded to an August survey by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association said that they anticipated needing emergency certified teachers to fill vacancies. The survey found nearly 500 teaching vacancies across the state.

"We are grateful to those who have stepped in when others have stepped out of the profession, but this is our harsh reality: We need to make teaching more attractive by providing training, support and the tools necessary to succeed in Oklahoma classrooms," Hofmeister said.

•••

60 years for Colorado man in Oklahoma pot smuggling killings

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado man has been sentenced to 60 years in prison for his role in the 2015 deaths of two Oklahoma men in a marijuana smuggling dispute.

The Greeley Tribune reports the sentence handed down for 38-year-old Jack Larkin of Pierce Thursday was the maximum one he could have received under a plea bargain he reached with prosecutors.

He pleaded guilty in August to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of 23-year-old Josh Foster and 22-year-old Zach Moore of Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Larkin's half brother, Oklahoma native Samuel Pinney, is serving life without parole for first-degree murder.

Prosecutors said Foster and Pinney had a smuggling arrangement but Foster went behind Pinney's back, using Pinney's Colorado connections, to buy pot. They say Larkin and Pinney lured Foster to Colorado to seek revenge.

•••

Oklahoma City police say robbery suspect linked to 4 murders

By TIM TALLEY, Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A man suspected in nearly a dozen armed robberies is now facing murder charges in connection to four deaths in Oklahoma, including two people who investigators initially thought died in traffic accident, Oklahoma City police said Friday.

Mario Normore, 27, has been jailed for almost a year on 10 counts of robbery with a firearm involving several businesses and two banks, according to court records. On Friday, police announced that prosecutors have agreed with a police recommendation that Normore also be charged with four counts of murder.

Formal murder charges had yet to be filed as of Friday afternoon, a delay that isn't unusual in Oklahoma. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press seeking comment. Normore's attorney said Friday afternoon that he didn't yet know whether Normore would face more charges.

Normore has pleaded not guilty to the robbery counts and is being held in the Oklahoma County Jail without bond.

Normore has been in custody since October on the robbery charges. He was later linked to four deaths dating back to last year, according to Oklahoma City Police Officer Megan Morgan.

"He's the only suspect right now," said Morgan, a spokeswoman for the police department.

Morgan said the cases include the July 2017 deaths of Bashar Burks, 27, and his girlfriend, Ashley Easton, 30. Police said Normore worked with Burks, whose body was found inside a burning vehicle that had been involved in a crash. At the time, police said his body showed signs of trauma that occurred prior to the crash. Easton's body also showed signs of trauma when it was discovered later in a nearby ditch.

Police haven't released details about the injuries or the case, including what allegedly linked Normore to the deaths.

Morgan said Normore is also suspected in the deaths of 21-year-old Searra Howe, who had been missing since August 2017 before her body was discovered in a field in October, and 58-year-old James Steven Knowles, who has been missing since October and is presumed dead.

Normore was reportedly a friend of Howe's prior to her death, while Knowles was the maintenance man in the apartment complex where Normore lived, according to police. Details about those cases, including what evidence allegedly links Normore to the victims' disappearances, also haven't been released.

•••