Oklahoma sees spike in heroin-related deaths over past week

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is warning of a spike in heroin-related deaths over the past week.

The bureau says seven people have died of suspected overdoses since May 27. Five of the deaths were in the Oklahoma City area and two of the deaths were in the Tulsa area.

OBN spokesman Mark Woodward says there was a total of 57 heroin deaths in 2018, so seven deaths within a week is concerning. Woodward says investigators believe the heroin involved in the recent deaths may be laced with fentanyl, a powerful opioid.

The bureau says one arrest has been made in connection with the deaths.

•••

Mike Pence pledges to rebuild after Oklahoma flood damage

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence is pledging to rebuild parts of Oklahoma damaged by flooding.

Pence, his wife and federal agency heads on Tuesday toured Tulsa-area neighborhoods swamped after the swollen Arkansas River left its banks.

Damage extends downstream into Arkansas following heavy spring rains. The Arkansas River is slowly cresting, though more rain is forecast this week. Officials don't expect water levels to rise higher than where they crested.

Major flooding is expected to subside within a few weeks.

President Donald Trump declared a major disaster in Oklahoma, where officials say recent severe weather has killed six people.

Acting head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Pete Gaynor said he expects 4,000 individuals and businesses in Oklahoma to register for disaster assistance.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke toured Tulsa-area damage Sunday.

•••

Oklahoma City mother gets life in fatal infant stabbing

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma City woman has been sentenced to life in prison after a jury convicted her of fatally stabbing her infant son.

The jury found Raven Veloz, 24, guilty Thursday of first-degree murder and two counts of assault and battery with a lethal weapon after a two-week trial, The Oklahoman reported. The jury rejected Veloz's insanity defense.

Prosecutors say Veloz stabbed and killed 8-month-old Ezekiel Veloz and injured her daughter, Sophia Veloz, and boyfriend, Sergio Garcia, in the July 2016 attack. She was taken to county jail after being treated for apparently self-inflicted stab injuries.

"It was a tragedy for everyone involved," said Assistant District Attorney Jimmy Harmon.

The jury recommended life sentences on each count.

Judge Natalie Mai will decide whether the life sentences will run consecutively or concurrently during an Aug. 21 hearing. Each sentence will have the potential of parole.

Garcia, 30, gave emotional testimony about the three children he had with Veloz, two of whom are dead. Their 13-month-old daughter, Audree, died of sudden infant death syndrome six months before the stabbing.

Dr. Jason Beaman testified that Veloz suffered from mental illness following the infant's death. Beaman, the chairman of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Oklahoma State University, added that Veloz suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts prior to the attack.

Dr. Jarrod Steffan, the state's expert psychologist, said Veloz was cognizant of her crimes.

After Garcia fled their apartment while hurt, Veloz locked the front door with their children still inside. Oklahoma City police Sgt. Justin Walters testified that it took 42 minutes before firefighters could get the door opened.

Harmon, the prosecutor, said Veloz lied to law enforcement and exhibited no remorse.

Garcia suffered six stab wounds to his chest, side, arm and back. He initially told police he thought the stabbing was premeditated but retracted that account at trial.

Sophia, who was 4 at the time of the attack, testified via video that she watched her mother stab her brother and that she tried to remain quiet so her mother wouldn't do the same thing to her, Harmon said.

•••

Stitt replaces director of Oklahoma's human services agency

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has appointed an Oklahoma City businessman with a background in health care, finance and senior living to head up the state's Department of Human Services.

Stitt announced Tuesday his appointment of Justin Brown as director of DHS, the state's largest agency with about 6,000 employees.

Brown has been chief executive officer since 2008 of Choice Capital Partners, an investment company that owns senior living facilities in three states. Stitt says Brown has stepped down from that position but will continue to serve in an advisory role on the company's board of directors.

Brown replaces Ed Lake, who has headed the agency for seven years.

Lake said in a statement he was disappointed with Stitt's decision to replace him, but proud of the work he accomplished.