County to help fund VA hospital
Facility to receive $4M from Tulsa County’s COVID relief funds
Tulsa County has committed $4 million from its $126.5 million American Rescue Plan allocation to the Veterans Affairs hospital under development in downtown Tulsa, the county announced Monday.
Tulsa County said the funds will be spent on project infrastructure.
“Tulsa County is proud to join many public and private partners, including The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, to support this expansion and improve health outcomes for our nation’s veterans, as well as those in our community experiencing a mental health crisis,” Tulsa County Commission Chairman Stan Sallee said in a written statement.
“My fellow commissioners and I are working diligently to place ARP funding where it is needed most in our community. This proposed project lifts the standard of care for all Tulsans but specifically improves outcomes for our most at-risk Tulsa County residents,” Sallee said.
The $175 million complex on Houston Avenue between Third and Sixth streets is expected to include a psychiatric facility, a 58-bed medical/surgical hospital in the former Kerr-Edmondson state office buildings, and a new parking garage to be built by the city of Tulsa.
Funding for the project includes $120 million from the federal government with cash and in-kind contributions from private donors, the state, the city and now the county.
The complex will be jointly operated by the VA and the adjacent Oklahoma State University Medical Center as well as the OSU Center for Health Sciences.
The project is one of the first VA facilities in the country to combine federal, state, local and
Howell’s family, prosecutors who tried the case, and attorneys and supporters of Jones.
Kelly Doyle, another Stitt appointee who voted in favor of commuting Jones’ sentence, said she agreed with Luck and noted there were mitigating factors she considered, including the fact that Jones, now 41, was 19 when Howell was killed during a carjacking.
Former District Attorney Richard Smothermon, who was appointed to the board by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, cast the lone no vote.
Stitt spokeswoman Carly Atchison said the governor plans to review the board’s recommendation carefully.
“The governor takes his role in this process seriously and will carefully consider the Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation as he does in all cases,” Atchison said in a statement. “We will not have any further comment until the governor has made a decision.”
The board’s vote does not
ensure Jones’ sentence will be commuted. Stitt’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, rejected three separate recommendations for clemency for death row inmates from the board. The last time a governor granted clemency to a death row inmate was Democrat Brad Henry in 2010.
Jones’ case drew widespread attention after it was profiled in “The Last Defense,” a three-episode documentary produced by actress Viola Davis that aired on ABC in 2018. Since then, reality television star Kim Kardashian West and athletes with Oklahoma ties, including NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Trae Young, have urged Stitt to commute Jones’ death sentence and spare his life.
Jones alleges he was framed by the actual killer, a high school friend and former co-defendant who was a key witness against him. But Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and the state’s former attorney general, Mike Hunter, have said the evidence against Jones is overwhelming.
Information from trial transcripts shows that witnesses identified Jones as the shooter and placed him with Howell’s stolen vehicle. Investigators also found the murder weapon and a bandana with Jones’ DNA in an attic space above his bedroom. Jones claimed in his commutation filing that the gun and bandana were planted there by the actual killer.
Howell’s sister and two young daughters — one of whom testified Monday — were in Howell’s SUV when the carjacking happened in his parents’ driveway in the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond.
“I was there when my brother Paul Howell was murdered,” Howell’s sister, Megan Tobey, told the board. “I know beyond a doubt that Julius Jones murdered my brother.”
Tobey said the killer also ran over Howell, crushing his legs, as he sped away.
“My parents never got over the death of their youngest son,” Tobey said. “They never got closure and they were never truly happy again.”