of how DHS has failed yet ANOTHER
child. Failed to protect
to keep her safe and failed to keep her alive. This story
by Kelsey Briggs's Grandmother. My deepest thanks go out to
her and to
also to Kelsey's Aunt who brought this story to my
is no way that I could tell you what happened
little girl any better than by allowing her Grandmother to let
know what happened.
we saw her
she wasn’t a normal little girl anymore. She had lost a lot of weight,
eyes looked glazed, she didn’t have
in her eyes
she had, she was sad. She was a sad
that, she never had any reason to be sad. It
was like she
even in there.”
Grandfather who used to sing
You are my
You make me
When skies are
You'll never know,
How much I love
Please don't take
As I lay
I dreamed I held
you in my
When I awoke,
And I hung my head
much I love
Grandmother of Kelsey
Briggs. After nine months of documented abuse we lost our precious
at the age of two years, nine months, and thirteen days. Her cause of
was blunt force trauma to the abdomen. Her stepfather, Michael Porter,
sits in the Lincoln County jail on the charge of first-degree murder.
death could have and should have been prevented.
my son was
called to active
duty, he left behind a happy, healthy little girl. She was living with
her mother and while he was gone we had received his visitation. The
began in January with a broken clavicle, twenty-nine bruises and
abrasions. The ER documented this as possible abuse and contacted our
police department. After their investigation, they concluded it was a
accident and returned Kelsey to her mother.
beginning of many
moments of outrage towards someone who could have and should have
We hired an attorney and received legal guardianship on January 24th.
was never our intention to keep Kelsey from her mother indefinitely,
to take whatever steps necessary to keep her safe. We were told by the
DHS caseworker that our job was to work with the mother and to work
reunification. Kelsey’s mother received weekend visits, supervised by
mother for one month. After the next court hearing she received
visits each weekend and one day during the week. She was ordered to
Parenting Classes, Anger Management, and Alcohol Assessment.
the new boyfriend and asked that he not be present during these visits.
Kelsey was returned to me several times with bruises. DHS was contacted
and documentation was always kept. One worker felt supervised visits
still needed, but did not take steps towards making this happen. That
worker later told me to stop calling unless I knew for sure it was
March I took
Kelsey to the
ER after she was returned to me with a swollen and blue nose. The
morning when I called the same worker, once again I was scolded, for
calling the night before. On April 4th, my son returned home for his
visit before deploying over seas. He stayed until the morning of April
11th, this was the last time he saw Kelsey. He left behind a little
who adored her father, who knew he was a soldier and that her Daddy was
in the Army. Kelsey’s mother was upset that her visit was interrupted
Lance’s leave and wanted the time made up. I contacted DHS for advice,
but did not receive a definite answer. I had not received a copy of the
court order and my attorney was out of the office, so trying to work
the mother I chose to let her make up her missed visit. A decision that
later came back to haunt me.
Kelsey was returned
with a sprained ankle. Her explanation once again was plausible and
however, given the history of our situation DHS was once again called
this time I was scolded for calling. On April 18th, the mother and
married. The mother and I decided together that going back and forth
two days was too much for Kelsey and we switched one day. That was the
weekend when Kelsey’s legs were broken. The mother took Kelsey to the
five days after receiving her from me to say I had hurt Kelsey. They
her to take Kelsey to the doctor. The doctor Kelsey had been seeing
this time was later discovered to be the sister of the attorney
by Kelsey’s mother. She and her colleague concluded the sprained ankle
was misdiagnosed and was actually broken and the other leg was a stress
fracture due to over compensation. No abuse was suspected and I did not
think other wise. Kelsey was put in full casts, which she referred to
out to me that
a second opinion should be sought to check for abnormal growth plates.
An appointment was made at the OU Physicians Clinic for May 2nd. I was
shocked and horrified when the Doctor diagnosed the broken legs as
I called DHS with his report. Since the mother had pointed her finger
me they had to investigate and put Kelsey into DHS custody. This is
the day my son landed in Kuwait to begin his service in Operation Iraqi
Freedom. Kelsey was placed with the maternal Grandmother. Calls were
on our behalf to many officials for help. BACA, (Bikers Against
Abuse) was called. They stated DHS was correct in keeping her away
from our home, all without talking to us. We thought this organization
was there to help and they let us down and ultimately let Kelsey
was also contacted.
I knew he would help after all he and Kelsey were members of the same
We were referred to Howard Hendrick the state director of DHS. He
us to other workers. Our pleas were ignored and we became very
of the people who should have and could have helped. At the next court
hearing the mother, my husband and myself were given four hours
visitation each week at the Lincoln County Office. We left court that
for our first visit and immediately the stepfather was allowed in. We
this, but they allowed it anyway.
went on for one
month until a court hearing on June 14th. At that time witnesses were
in one by one to testify. The Court Appointed Special Advocate, known
CASA testified as well. She stated she had interviewed her own sister
worked with this mother. When questioned as to whether or not she
anyone from our family she stated she only dealt with parents and that
Lance was allegedly in the Army and she could not locate him. She
Kelsey be returned to the mother and that we get one hour supervised
per month and that Lance should get the same when he returned.
the end of
Judge Craig Key ruled that he could not determine who hurt Kelsey and
should be returned to the mother with no visitation with our family. We
could not believe his decision. As hard as it would have been we would
rather have seen Kelsey go to foster care than to be returned to her
care. The day of court we received a copy of the DHS report and found
son listed as an alleged perpetrator. How could he be, he was not even
in the state? I set out once again to contact any and everyone. No one
listened when I was only talking about abuse of a small child, but
if they know a soldier fighting for our country has been falsely
they would help. So I sat at my computer night after night writing my
over and over again. I went to our Oklahoma State web site and wrote a
letter to every State Representative, every Congressman, the Attorney
the Lt. Governor, our Senators and many more. I received replies from
Steele and Gus Blackwell. Kris Steele, from Shawnee, gave us the number
for OCCY. They contacted us on several occasions, but could not offer a
different solution. I began writing the media and once again no one was
interested in this story. Time went on with out visits with
August my daughter-in-law,
Ashley, was contacted by DHS to tell her she could have a two hour
visit with Kelsey in their office. She was excited to finally have some
contact with her. After two visits another court hearing was set. It
determined Ashley could receive a five hour unsupervised visit every
Saturday. They also requested she participate in a service plan. This
great news to our family. The morning of the visit Ashley was called by
the DHS worker and informed that Kelsey had been in a car accident and
the visit was canceled. The accident was minor; Kelsey was taken to the
ER at the request of the DHS worker for precautionary measures, but
the wait was to long the mother left. We were told her stomach was sore
due to the car seat, but Kelsey was otherwise fine. The visit was
for the following Saturday, August 27th. We were once again excited and
anxious to see Miss Kelsey. I planned on taking video to send to her
and I wanted to take a picture of all seven of my Grandchildren
we could not
believe what we saw. Kelsey had lost weight, there was bruising on the
side of her face and down her left arm, she had retinal hemorrhaging,
appeared heavily medicated. I called my daughter and told her not to
the other children, for fear it might be too much for her. I took
but did not want my son to see how bad she looked while so far away.
remembered us, but she was not the Kelsey we had known. We watched her
swing, something that had always made her happy. This time she had lost
the spark that had once been there. We knew something was wrong, but
not know what.
her that day we
did not know it would be our last visit with this precious child. We
making calls that night, looking for answers. I contacted the DHS
director on Monday asking what was wrong with Kelsey. I stated her
was declining and if someone did not do something she may not be here
her father returned. I was told they noticed the changes. My Aunt went
to the Pott. County office on August 29th and asked them to open a new
investigation. They did not act on her concerns. It was determined the
bruises and retinal hemorrhaging could have been caused by the accident
eight days before. We were told she was having seizures and needed
After this visit Dr. Koons, the pediatrician, in Shawnee wrote Judge
and recommended that the visits be stopped.
once again she
is the sister of the attorney representing the mother. She felt only
mother in case of a seizure should monitor Kelsey. An emergency hearing
was set. Before this hearing my daughter-in-law informed my son she
a divorce. From that day forward we lost any contact with Kelsey, as
we did not have rights. My son had been injured in a truck accident in
Iraq and with the news of his divorce he was allowed to return home one
month early. He was only able to keep his spirits up with the thought
seeing Kelsey. He contacted DHS to let them know he was returning.
had been made for Kelsey to be at the airport. This was to be a big
11th, I received
a call from a friend that Kelsey had been taken to the hospital. I
the CASA worker and asked her to check on the situation. I called her
and she told me Kelsey had a seizure and she would call me back. She
did. We heard from a friend at the hospital that Kelsey had died. My
called thirty minutes later from Ft. Benning, Georgia and I had to give
him the news that would change his life forever.
by DHS. They did not make any effort to call the Red Cross to notify my
son that his only child was gone. We made the calls necessary and got
home that night. A few days later we got the news, it was listed as a
How could this have happened? So many people were allegedly watching
her. Not a week went by that our family was not contacting someone for
help. Not a week went by that we were once again ignored. The day after
Kelsey died everyone wanted to talk to us. Pott. County DHS called and
wanted us to come in so they could open an investigation, but it was to
little to late. So many people could have made a difference and they
not to. People in the business of helping abused children ignored this
child, but maybe because they let Kelsey down they will listen when the
next child cries for help.
after her parents were divorced I knew she must have a purpose and I
what it was. When my son was sent to war I feared he was not coming
and her purpose was for him to live on through her. Lance came home and
Kelsey was the one who did not make it. That is when I knew her
it is to send a message for change in our state and to save other
We need new laws; we need an agency with authority over DHS.
need rights to fight for these children when their parents are not
of making good decisions.
was at war trying
to protect the rights of another country, his own rights and those of
child were violated. This tragedy that could have been prevented has
devastated our family. We did everything we knew to do within the law.
Many failed Kelsey. Our elected officials could have and should have
action when they heard our cries. If we do not have their attention now
they should not be re-elected.
ask each of
you to take the
time to write or call your state officials and ask them what they
to do to help the helpless in our state. It is to late to save Kelsey,
but there are hundreds of children in homes today with broken bones and
bruises that were not accidents. Not only should the perpetrator be
accountable, but everyone who had knowledge of the abuse and those who
failed to help.
one shocks me
to my bones!
Mother Seeks Part of Settlement
The mother of Kelsey Briggs is suing in federal court to receive
from a settlement in the death of her daughter.
Dawn Smith was
convicted of enabling child abuse and was sentenced to 27 years in
after Kelsey died in 2005 while in the care of Smith and the child's
Michael Lee Porter.
serving a 30-year sentence after pleading guilty to enabling child
Lance Briggs, won a $625,000 settlement from the state Department of
Services and a DHS-contractor, Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services, for
to do enough to prevent Kelsey's death.
Dawn Smith is
suing claiming she is entitled to half of the settlement. Her attorney
is arguing that she was not convicted of murder and is therefore under
state law just as eligible as the girl's father to receive part of the
Friday in federal Court in Oklahoma City, Lance Briggs pleaded to the
that the money awarded to him is his money and his alone saying Smith
deserve "one red cent."
hearing, each side was given three and a half hours to present their
Officials said it will take at least a month before the judge is
to make that decision.
said if she
does win the money, she wants to pay her family back for her legal
The rest she said she would donate to an infant crisis center and St.
Medical Research Center.
I could just
KISS this judge :)
Smith-Briggs' mom won't get money from settlement
Published: February 10, 2010
Tuesday ruled Kelsey Smith-Briggs’ mother cannot share in a lawsuit
over her daughter’s death because of her own wrongdoing.
30, wanted half of the $345,097. left over from the settlement. She is
prison for enabling her daughter’s abuse.
Timothy DeGiusti gave all the money to Kelsey’s father, Lance Briggs.
established that Ms. Smith was aware Kelsey was being harmed, and at
very least, she culpably failed to protect Kelsey from abuse. Equity
that one ought not benefit from her own wrong,” the judge ruled.
Tuesday, "I think justice has prevailed.”
said he will give
some of the money to a foundation named after his daughter that
child abuse awareness and other things.
abuse Oct. 11, 2005, at her home near Meeker. She had suffered repeated
injuries that year, including two broken legs and a broken collarbone.
The case was one of the most highly publicized murder cases in Oklahoma
for the next two years.
January she wanted half of the settlement to repay her family for her
expenses. She said she would give anything left after that to an infant
crisis center in Oklahoma City and a children’s hospital.
a wrongful-death lawsuit in 2006 against the state Department of Human
Services and others.
year, the state
paid $525,000 to settle the lawsuit, and a private agency paid
Attorneys got 40 percent of the settlement plus expenses. Raye Dawn
asked for a share after the settlement was complete.
returning from military duty when Kelsey died. He had been in Kuwait
Iraq with the U.S. Army. His attorneys told the judge, "He loved his
He cherished the thought of coming home to her. The emotional toll is
‘raw’ today as it was the day it happened. Either Raye Dawn Smith
and then murdered her daughter to prevent Lance Briggs from taking
after his discharge, or she allowed it to happen.”
his opinion, the judge wrote: "Clearly, as between the parents, Ms.
alone stood in a position to intervene to protect Kelsey from harm and
death, but she failed to do so and thereby contributed to (if she did
inflict) Kelsey’s fatal injuries. Mr. Briggs, who is blameless in the
of Kelsey’s death, has been devastated by his feelings of loss and
Ms. Smith’s feelings, while perhaps no less real to her now, were
avoidable had she properly tended to the parent-child relationship
the time period immediately preceding Kelsey’s death.”
one was convicted
of murder in Kelsey’s case.
Michael Lee Porter, was charged with first-degree murder and child
abuse but pleaded guilty instead to enabling child abuse. He is serving
a 30-year prison sentence. He blamed the girl’s mother for her death.
mother was never
charged with murder. She was convicted at a 2007 trial of enabling
abuse and is serving a 27-year prison sentence. She blames Porter for
though DHS workers, a private child-welfare worker and a state judge
overseeing her care because of her injuries. Her death came four months
after the state judge returned Kelsey to her mother, despite
the mother was the abuser.
mother divorced before she was born.
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