RAYE DAWN SMITH! She is an innocent mother - her story reads almost exactly like Tabitha Pollock. She was convicted because she didn't have a crystal ball.
JUSTICE DENIED: For Raye-Dawn Smith
Kelsey Shelton Smith Briggs was killed on October 11, 2005 at the age of 2 and ½ years old, as a result from blunt force trauma.
Her step-father Michael Porter was arrested two weeks later and charged with homicide. Those charges were later amended to include sexual assault.
Four months after Kelsey's death, Raye-Dawn Smith, who was Kelsey's mother, was charged with enabling the abuse that killed Kelsey.
Raye-Dawn Smith is innocent. She was railroaded into prison with an unfair and biased trial.
She was convicted on July 19, 2007 and sentenced to serve an unheard of 27 years in an Oklahoma Prison, merely 3 years less than Michael Porter.
Kelsey's paternal family was instrumental in obtaining charges against the mother of the slain child.
Originally the Lincoln County District Attorney was not even going to charge Raye-Dawn with a crime.
It wasn't until Kathie Briggs, the paternal grandmother, drew up a petition and went door to door commandeering signatures and causing outrage in the small town. She had already campaigned for the opponent to District Judge Craig Key, and was a major factor in him losing his seat on the bench.
Craig Key, has since
written a book called "A Deadly Game of Tug of War: The Kelsey Smith
Story" in which he discusses the DHS (Department of Human Services)
case prior to Kelsey's death.
In the months preceding Kelsey's death, DHS and the courts were involved due to constant allegations of abuse, made by the paternal grandmother, Kathie Briggs.
On January 9, 2005 Kelsey climbed from her crib onto a slide and fell breaking her collarbone. Raye-Dawn sought immediate medical attention and the hospital did not suspect or report abuse.
On January 19, 2005 Raye-Dawn picked Kelsey up from the daycare at 5:00pm and dropped her off for a weekend visit with Kathie Briggs at 6:00pm.
At approximately 10:30pm Kelsey's step-mother, Ashley Gober, and father, Lance Briggs, claimed that when they gave Kelsey a bath, her bottom was covered in bruises. They took Kelsey to the ER to document abuse. The ER noted 29 "bruises". The Meeker Police Department was called out to investigate the allegations of abuse for both the collarbone and the "bruises". They found no evidence of abuse.
However, the DHS alleged that there was abuse and felt that Raye-Dawn was the perpetrator.
Going against the investigation of the professional police department, DHS opened a "referral".
When DHS originally asked Raye-Dawn about the bruises, she stated that she was not aware of any bruises. When Raye-Dawn got Kelsey back just 2 days later, there were very little signs of any bruising at all. Raye-Dawn inquired and found out that no one bothered to change Kelsey's diaper in 4 hours during a birthday party. It is quite possible that she was forced to sit in her own excrement for hours, causing whelps or skin irritation, similar to bruises.
The daycare worker testified to DHS and to the courts that the
"bruises" were not there on Friday at 5:00pm when Raye-Dawn
picked Kelsey up. However, the DHS later reported that Raye-Dawn
"denied" seeing any bruises
on Kelsey. This was not the case.
The paternal grandmother, Kathie Briggs used this as an opportunity to file for emergency custody of Kelsey. The petition was quickly granted and Raye-Dawn was only allowed weekend visitation.
In April of 2005 while visiting her mother's family, Kelsey went on a trip to the zoo where she twisted her ankle when she stumbled in the platform flip-flops that she was wearing. Again, Raye-Dawn sought immediate medical care for the injury.
The leg was X-rayed and originally thought to only be sprained. She took Kelsey to back to Kathie Briggs after her visitation and gave Kathie the note and care instructions from the ER. Kelsey was standing and tolerating some walking at this time.
Four days later, when Raye-Dawn went to pick Kelsey up, she refused to even stand. At that time Kathie informed her that she hadn't walked more than a few steps in four days.
On the nearest Monday Raye-Dawn took Kelsey to the DHS office for them to review Kelsey's condition. Her legs now felt hot to the touch and Raye-Dawn was instructed to take Kelsey to the ER for immediate treatment. Upon examination Kelsey was found to have fractures of both tibias (shins). They casted her legs in pink and green.
Abuse was not suspected by the hospital staff or DHS at the time. However, when Kathie Briggs saw Kelsey's legs in casts up to her thighs she called and reported abuse against Raye-Dawn.
On May 2,
2005 Kathie Briggs then proceeded to take Kelsey in to
Kelsey was then removed from the
temporary custody of Kathie Briggs and both Kathie and Raye-Dawn were
listed as possible
perpetrators of the abuse. However the courts deemed an "unknown
Kathie often photographed every little bump and bruise that Kelsey endured and called in abuse reports to DHS. In fact, DHS was so upset at the sheer number of calls received that they actually scolded Kathie and gave her proper reporting instructions.
These photographs were used in a custody hearing that was set in June. Kelsey's father had joined the military and was had supposedly shipped off to Iraq. However, he conveniently called each time his mother was at DHS visiting Kelsey. Kathie refused to give the DHS any information regarding contact information for Kelsey's father, Lance Briggs.
met and married Michael Porter, who would eventually sexually assault and
At the June hearing, District Judge Craig Key returned Kelsey to the home of Raye-Dawn Smith. However she was still in the custody of DHS and would be closely monitored.
In all, there were five organizations that were watching Kelsey's case.
Raye-Dawn had so many in-home visits, doctor's appointments, and DHS visits that she had to quit her job in an effort to facilitate and manage Kelsey's schedule.
There were no outside reports (from Kathie
Briggs) of serious injury from June through the end of August.
Kelsey was noted to be a well adjusted, happy child who loved her mother
and shared a close bond. Raye-Dawn was noted as being very attentive to
Kelsey's emotional needs, but needed to work closer on ensuring that the
rambunctious two-year-old did not further injure herself. Michael
Porter was well liked by the family and had two children of his own that
he and Raye-Dawn were raising.
On August 19, 2005 at approximately 10:30pm the Porter family was involved in a serious accident when their pick-up truck was totaled after being hit by a drunk driver. Kelsey was in the driver's side rear passenger seat and the seatbelt caused considerable bruising to her hip, and face.
She was taken to the emergency room where the family waited past 2:00am without ever seeing an emergency room physician. The emergency room nurse noted some bruises and red marks to Kelsey's face, however Kelsey was running around and drinking Dr. Pepper.
The family was discouraged when they were informed that they would still have to wait several more hours to see a physician. They decided to follow up with the pediatrician as soon as possible, since Kelsey was not showing any signs of immediate trauma.
Which follow up they did on August 22, 2005 with Kelsey's
pediatrician Dr. Koons. At the time Dr. Koons
was not overly concerned with Kelsey's injuries related to the motor
vehicle accident. She did however note that she was concerned that Kelsey
may be suffering from a medical ailment causing her to have other problems
such as vomiting, poor appetite, hair loss, easily bruising, and other
On August 27, 2005 Kelsey went on a 5-hour visitation with her step-mother. Naturally, when her stepmother saw her condition she was extremely concerned. The family took photographs and immediately sent copies into DHS requesting that an investigation be conducted. The DHS was already aware of the accident and had obtained a copy of the police report and found that Kelsey was in a car seat device at the time of the accident and that the accident was not the fault of the Porters.
So these calls, though sounding desperate, were screened out.
However, Ashley Gober (the step-mother) and Kathie Briggs were insistent and continued to report the injuries as abuse.
Meanwhile, Kelsey began suffering from night terrors and was engaging in
self mutilation by biting herself. Raye-Dawn was extremely concerned
and was the one who reported this odd behavior to DHS and requested a
referral for toddler play-therapy in an effort to help Kelsey.
Sometimes Raye-Dawn would get visits from caseworkers two times in a single day, and she always welcomed them and listened to their instructions. At one visit a caseworker noted that Kelsey had what looked like a black eye. However, closer review and discussing the eye with Kelsey he found that Kelsey had gotten shampoo in her eye and rubbed the eye raw with a towel.
In fact, all of the injuries that were reported regarding Kelsey were injuries that all had completely plausible explanations and were consistent with everyday toddler injuries (even the broken bones).
The courts had assigned several people to the case, an attorney ad litem for Kelsey, who saw no need for further intervention, a state CHBS worker who didn't feel Kelsey needed any further services, and a volunteer CASA worker who felt the same.
Most importantly, the assistant DA working the case felt that
the case against Raye-Dawn could be dropped. However upon review of the
Ryan Luke law, the court realized that DHS was required to be involved for
six months, and set a hearing for review.
On October 11, 2005, the date of Kelsey's death, a CHBS worker had been at the house from 12:00pm through 1:30pm.
The worker noted that everything was fine. Other than a small band-aid on her finger, and a nickel size bruise on her leg, Kelsey was fine. When she left, Kelsey and Raye-Dawn were outside playing with a turtle that they had found. Kelsey was happy. After the worker left, Raye-Dawn says that they went inside where Kelsey who was potty training had had an accident. Raye-Dawn washed Kelsey up and changed her shirt and put her in the bed without a diaper so that she could "air" out during their nap.
Michael Porter came home at 2:45pm and woke Raye-Dawn up. She immediately
left to go into Shawnee to pick up Porter's daughter from school.
She didn't normally pick the
child up, but Porter was expecting a friend who was buying some tires.
When Raye-Dawn returned to the home at about 3:30pm, the ambulance was in the driveway and she was informed that Kelsey wasn't breathing. She thought that Kelsey may have had a seizure, as the pediatrician was in the process of conducting testing for seizure activity. Raye-Dawn rode in the ambulance to the hospital with Kelsey as the technicians worked to save her life.
Kelsey was pronounced dead at 5:30pm on October 11, 2005.
Filled with disbelief, Raye-Dawn held onto Kelsey and rocked her for nearly two hours after her death.
In death, the fighting between these two families didn't end. There were two separate funerals to accommodate both sides of the family.
Raye-Dawn was three months pregnant with Michael
Richard Smothermon, the District Attorney in the case originally felt that there was no information that indicated that Raye-Dawn had participated, or failed to protect Kelsey in any way. Raye-Dawn was completely compliant with all of the DA's requests and provided every shred of information that she could in an effort to secure a conviction against the man who sexually assaulted and murdered her daughter.
In fact, she never even once thought of retaining counsel.
After the pressure previously described, the DA finally filed charges against Raye-Dawn Smith (now divorced from Porter).
He did not request a Grand Jury Investigation into the case; instead he indicted her on what is called an "Information Indictment".
In February of 2006, Michael Porter struck a
plea-bargain deal that would save him from
facing a death or life sentence and pled guilty to one count of enabling
abuse and received a 30 year prison sentence. A requirement of the
plea agreement was that Porter testifies against his ex-wife.
The trial was a joke. Jury selection only took about 3 hours, which is amazing considering that there were over 1,900 News Articles and Broadcasts regarding the trial. The judge granted a change of venue a whole 40 miles away.
The Judge, Joe Vassar, refused to allow the District Judge who had handled Kelsey's custody case to testify as a fact witness, stating that he was not an "expert", although he had intricate knowledge of the inner-workings of the case.
The DA allowed Michael Porter to testify; although during his testimony the DA admitted several times that he felt that Porter's testimony was false.
The media hounded every person who entered the courthouse, to the point that they were kicked out of the courthouse, but still took pictures through windows and open doors.
The jury was not sequestered.
In this small courthouse, the jury members were often found mingling with both families as well as the media. The jury used the same common restrooms as all of the observers, officials, and the families. They all ate that the same small restaurant called Russ' Ribs together. The media would do reports regarding who was up next to testify and what they were going to testify to and the jurors were right there.
In fact, it was noted that one juror was seen watching a newscast regarding the trial just minutes after he had been instructed not to do so!
Jurors had to be
admonished several times for sleeping during the trial, and one juror even
brought a blanket and curled up like she was at home watching television!
Even with 12 affidavits from witnesses who witnessed all of the behaviors above- the judge, Honorable Joe Vassar, denied Raye-Dawn the right to a mistrial.
Furthermore, there was a statement from Porter's own daughter alleging that she observed him to be extremely mean to Kelsey when Raye-Dawn wasn't around. She even went as far as to describe an incident when Michael Porter hit Kelsey's head against a wall.
Sexual abuse is not the type of abuse that occurs in public.
Raye-Dawn insists that she had no idea that Michael Porter was abusing her daughter, sexually or otherwise. Yet she sits in a cell at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud, Oklahoma serving a sentence of 27 years in prison, finally allowed to grieve the loss of her precious little girl.
Her son was
taken less than 24 hours after birth, and
is in DHS custody in a foster home. With her conviction, she risks losing
all parental rights.
The prosecution in this case had not a single shred of evidence that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Raye-Dawn was guilty of enabling the abuse that killed Kelsey.
In fact, Raye-Dawn's constant loving and caring behavior backed up with doctor's visits, DHS reports, and previous court testimony proved otherwise.
The jurors in this case were obviously affected by
the high profile of the case, combined with the biased media reports- as
well as influence from the paternal side of the family during the trial.
Raye-Dawn Smith will now file with the State Appellant Court in the hopes of gaining an appeal.
We are making a public plea in hopes for gaining any and all support for Raye-Dawn Smith.
All of the documents in the case including DHS reports, Arrest Charges, Witness affidavits, and other exhibits can be read at http://www.freekelseysmom.com
See the local TV news stories on the case-