Kelsey Briggs
December 28, 2002 - October 11, 2005
Find A Grave Memorial
Below is the tragic story of how DHS has failed yet ANOTHER child. Failed to protect her, failed to keep her safe and failed to keep her alive. This story is told 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 attention. There is no way that I could tell you what happened to this innocent little girl any better than by allowing her Grandmother to let us all know what happened.

“The last time we saw her she wasn’t a normal little girl anymore. She had lost a lot of weight, her
eyes looked glazed, she didn’t 
have the light in her eyes she had, she was sad. She was a sad 
little girl and before that, she never had any reason to be sad.  It was like she wasn't even in there.”
Royce Briggs - Kelsey's Grandfather who used to sing
"You Are My Sunshine" to her.


You Are My Sunshine

You are my sunshine 
My only sunshine. 
You make me happy 
When skies are grey. 
You'll never know, dear, 
How much I love you. 
Please don't take my sunshine away 

The other nite, dear, 
As I lay sleeping 
I dreamed I held you in my arms. 
When I awoke, dear, 
I was mistaken 
And I hung my head and cried. 

You are my sunshine, 
My only sunshine. 
You make me happy 
When skys are grey. 
You'll never know, dear, 
How much I love you. 
Please don't take my sunshine away. 
Please don't take my sunshine away. 


I am the Grandmother of Kelsey Briggs. After nine months of documented abuse we lost our precious Kelsey at the age of two years, nine months, and thirteen days. Her cause of death was blunt force trauma to the abdomen. Her stepfather, Michael Porter, sits in the Lincoln County jail on the charge of first-degree murder. Kelsey’s death could have and should have been prevented. 

When 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 abuse began in January with a broken clavicle, twenty-nine bruises and multiple abrasions. The ER documented this as possible abuse and contacted our Meeker police department. After their investigation, they concluded it was a toddler accident and returned Kelsey to her mother. 

This was the beginning of many moments of outrage towards someone who could have and should have helped. We hired an attorney and received legal guardianship on January 24th. It was never our intention to keep Kelsey from her mother indefinitely, but 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 towards reunification. Kelsey’s mother received weekend visits, supervised by her mother for one month. After the next court hearing she received unsupervised visits each weekend and one day during the week. She was ordered to attend Parenting Classes, Anger Management, and Alcohol Assessment. 

We were also concerned with 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 were still needed, but did not take steps towards making this happen. That same worker later told me to stop calling unless I knew for sure it was abuse. 

In March I took Kelsey to the ER after she was returned to me with a swollen and blue nose. The following morning when I called the same worker, once again I was scolded, for not calling the night before. On April 4th, my son returned home for his last 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 girl 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 with 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 with the mother I chose to let her make up her missed visit. A decision that later came back to haunt me. 

On April 14th, Kelsey was returned with a sprained ankle. Her explanation once again was plausible and collaborated; however, given the history of our situation DHS was once again called and this time I was scolded for calling. On April 18th, the mother and boyfriend married. The mother and I decided together that going back and forth every 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 DHS five days after receiving her from me to say I had hurt Kelsey. They instructed her to take Kelsey to the doctor. The doctor Kelsey had been seeing during this time was later discovered to be the sister of the attorney retained 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 as her socks. 

It was pointed 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 abuse. I called DHS with his report. Since the mother had pointed her finger to me they had to investigate and put Kelsey into DHS custody. This is also the day my son landed in Kuwait to begin his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Kelsey was placed with the maternal Grandmother. Calls were made on our behalf to many officials for help. BACA, (Bikers Against Child 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 down. 

The Governor was also contacted. I knew he would help after all he and Kelsey were members of the same family. We were referred to Howard Hendrick the state director of DHS. He referred us to other workers. Our pleas were ignored and we became very untrusting 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 supervised visitation each week at the Lincoln County Office. We left court that day for our first visit and immediately the stepfather was allowed in. We questioned this, but they allowed it anyway. 

These visits went on for one month until a court hearing on June 14th. At that time witnesses were called in one by one to testify. The Court Appointed Special Advocate, known as CASA testified as well. She stated she had interviewed her own sister who worked with this mother. When questioned as to whether or not she interviewed 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 recommended Kelsey be returned to the mother and that we get one hour supervised visitation per month and that Lance should get the same when he returned. 

At the end of the hearings, Judge Craig Key ruled that he could not determine who hurt Kelsey and she 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 mother’s care. The day of court we received a copy of the DHS report and found our 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 maybe if they know a soldier fighting for our country has been falsely accused they would help. So I sat at my computer night after night writing my story over and over again. I went to our Oklahoma State web site and wrote a letter to every State Representative, every Congressman, the Attorney General, the Lt. Governor, our Senators and many more. I received replies from Kris 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 Kelsey. 

Finally in August my daughter-in-law, Ashley, was contacted by DHS to tell her she could have a two hour supervised 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 was determined Ashley could receive a five hour unsupervised visit every other Saturday. They also requested she participate in a service plan. This was 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 because 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 rescheduled 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 Daddy and I wanted to take a picture of all seven of my Grandchildren together. 

When we arrived 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, and appeared heavily medicated. I called my daughter and told her not to bring the other children, for fear it might be too much for her. I took video, but did not want my son to see how bad she looked while so far away. She 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 did not know what. 

When we left her that day we did not know it would be our last visit with this precious child. We started making calls that night, looking for answers. I contacted the DHS county director on Monday asking what was wrong with Kelsey. I stated her condition was declining and if someone did not do something she may not be here when 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 tests. After this visit Dr. Koons, the pediatrician, in Shawnee wrote Judge Key and recommended that the visits be stopped. 

I remind you once again she is the sister of the attorney representing the mother. She felt only the 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 wanted a divorce. From that day forward we lost any contact with Kelsey, as Grandparents 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 of seeing Kelsey. He contacted DHS to let them know he was returning. Arrangements had been made for Kelsey to be at the airport. This was to be a big moment for us. 

On October 11th, I received a call from a friend that Kelsey had been taken to the hospital. I contacted the CASA worker and asked her to check on the situation. I called her again and she told me Kelsey had a seizure and she would call me back. She never did. We heard from a friend at the hospital that Kelsey had died. My son called thirty minutes later from Ft. Benning, Georgia and I had to give him the news that would change his life forever. 

Our family was never contacted 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 Lance home that night. A few days later we got the news, it was listed as a homicide. How could this have happened? So many people were allegedly watching over 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 chose 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. 

When Kelsey was born months after her parents were divorced I knew she must have a purpose and I wondered what it was. When my son was sent to war I feared he was not coming home 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 purpose; it is to send a message for change in our state and to save other children. We need new laws; we need an agency with authority over DHS. Grandparents need rights to fight for these children when their parents are not capable of making good decisions. 

While my son was at war trying to protect the rights of another country, his own rights and those of his child were violated. This tragedy that could have been prevented has forever devastated our family. We did everything we knew to do within the law. Many failed Kelsey. Our elected officials could have and should have taken action when they heard our cries. If we do not have their attention now they should not be re-elected. 

I ask each of you to take the time to write or call your state officials and ask them what they intend 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 held accountable, but everyone who had knowledge of the abuse and those who failed to help.

UPDATES:

This one shocks me to my bones!

Kelsey Briggs' Mother Seeks Part of Settlement
Jan 08, 2010 12:29 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The mother of Kelsey Briggs is suing in federal court to receive proceeds from a settlement in the death of her daughter.

Raye Dawn Smith was convicted of enabling child abuse and was sentenced to 27 years in prison after Kelsey died in 2005 while in the care of Smith and the child's stepfather Michael Lee Porter.

Porter is currently serving a 30-year sentence after pleading guilty to enabling child abuse.

Kelsey's father, Lance Briggs, won a $625,000 settlement from the state Department of Human Services and a DHS-contractor, Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services, for failing to do enough to prevent Kelsey's death.

Raye 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 settlement.

During a hearing Friday in federal Court in Oklahoma City, Lance Briggs pleaded to the court  that the money awarded to him is his money and his alone saying Smith doesn't deserve "one red cent."

During the court hearing, each side was given three and a half hours to present their evidence. Officials said it will take at least a month before the judge is expected to make that decision.

Smith said if she does win the money, she wants to pay her family back for her legal costs. The rest she said she would donate to an infant crisis center and St. Jude's Medical Research Center.

YES! I could just KISS this judge :)

 Kelsey Smith-Briggs' mom won't get money from settlement
BY NOLAN CLAY Oklahoman   Published: February 10, 2010

 A federal judge Tuesday ruled Kelsey Smith-Briggs’ mother cannot share in a lawsuit settlement over her daughter’s death because of her own wrongdoing.

Raye Dawn Smith, 30, wanted half of the $345,097. left over from the settlement. She is in prison for enabling her daughter’s abuse.

U.S. District Judge Timothy DeGiusti gave all the money to Kelsey’s father, Lance Briggs.

"The evidence clearly established that Ms. Smith was aware Kelsey was being harmed, and at the very least, she culpably failed to protect Kelsey from abuse. Equity dictates that one ought not benefit from her own wrong,” the judge ruled.

Lance Briggs said Tuesday, "I think justice has prevailed.”

He said he will give some of the money to a foundation named after his daughter that supports child abuse awareness and other things.

Kelsey died from 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.

Smith testified in January she wanted half of the settlement to repay her family for her legal expenses. She said she would give anything left after that to an infant crisis center in Oklahoma City and a children’s hospital.

She is appealing her conviction.

Lance Briggs filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in 2006 against the state Department of Human Services and others.

Last year, the state paid $525,000 to settle the lawsuit, and a private agency paid $100,000. Attorneys got 40 percent of the settlement plus expenses. Raye Dawn Smith asked for a share after the settlement was complete.

Lance Briggs was returning from military duty when Kelsey died. He had been in Kuwait and Iraq with the U.S. Army. His attorneys told the judge, "He loved his daughter. He cherished the thought of coming home to her. The emotional toll is as ‘raw’ today as it was the day it happened. Either Raye Dawn Smith abused and then murdered her daughter to prevent Lance Briggs from taking Kelsey after his discharge, or she allowed it to happen.”

In a footnote to his opinion, the judge wrote: "Clearly, as between the parents, Ms. Smith 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 not inflict) Kelsey’s fatal injuries. Mr. Briggs, who is blameless in the matter of Kelsey’s death, has been devastated by his feelings of loss and grief. Ms. Smith’s feelings, while perhaps no less real to her now, were entirely avoidable had she properly tended to the parent-child relationship during the time period immediately preceding Kelsey’s death.”

No one was convicted of murder in Kelsey’s case.

Kelsey’s stepfather, Michael Lee Porter, was charged with first-degree murder and child sexual 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.

The mother was never charged with murder. She was convicted at a 2007 trial of enabling child abuse and is serving a 27-year prison sentence. She blames Porter for Kelsey’s death.

Kelsey died even though DHS workers, a private child-welfare worker and a state judge were overseeing her care because of her injuries. Her death came four months after the state judge returned Kelsey to her mother, despite accusations the mother was the abuser.

Kelsey’s father and mother divorced before she was born.

Please visit Kelsey's Purpose by clicking below:  



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