By Barry Jon and Ron Lee
Raye Dawn Smith
found guilty by a
jury, not by the
Bristow, Oklahoma – Every parent who has lost a child to a predator, and every father and/or mother who discovers a daughter or son vanished due to abduction, or was abused by an attacker, now stands to be convicted for enabling that vicious crime. That is what the jury of the Raye Dawn Smith case in Oklahoma must think.
Raye Dawn Smith’s two-year-old daughter Kelsey was murdered on October 11, 2005, by her step-father, Michael Porter. Porter is serving a 30-year sentence for enabling child abuse, a plea deal he took after being charged with first degree murder and sexual assault. Instead, he now claims that the mother abused and killed Kelsey, but logic dictates that Porter is lying. After Porter was arrested, he asked that Smith care for his daughter and son. Why would you ask someone who you think just abused and killed their child to watch your own? The District Attorney, Richard Smothermon, even began his interview of Porter on the witness stand by stating, “You know that I believe you murdered and sexually assaulted Kelsey?”
Several months prior to Kelsey’s murder, Kelsey had been returned to Raye Dawn Smith’s full-time care by Judge Craig Key. This was a result of a long custody battle with Kelsey’s paternal family, and in particular Kelsey’s grandmother, Kathie Briggs. The custody battle included claims of abuse against Smith by Briggs, but it was proven by Smith’s defense that what was charged as abuse came when Kelsey was either not in Smith’s care, or couldn’t be proven as abuse. In fact, both her legs were shown, according to timelines and expert testimony, to having been broken while in the care of Kathie Briggs. According to the investigating sheriff in the case, he believes Kathie Briggs suffers from Munchausen’s by Proxy Syndrome (MBSP). According to emedicinehealth.com MBSP is defined as, “a caregiver who fakes symptoms by causing injury to someone else, often a child …”
The Department of Human Services (DHS) was heavily involved in the life of Kelsey Smith-Briggs in 2005, and a DHS case worker even saw Kelsey the day of her death. This trained professional didn’t ever see cause to remove Kelsey, after her return to Smith’s home. So, how is it that Raye Dawn should have? Smith even stated during an interview, “I wish I had seen it coming. Kelsey would be alive today.”
The Sensational Kelsey Smith-Briggs’ Story
The mainstream media just plain chose to get their facts wrong in reporting this case, and they continue to laundry-list all of Kelsey’s injuries as if they happened all at once, when they were actually separate injuries over a period of nine months while Briggs had regular visitation – injuries, all of which, did not occur while with Smith. Most could easily be attributed to a photographic collection of childhood injuries amassed by the Briggs’ in an effort of building a case against the mother. As an example of the mainstream media’s misreporting, which the Sapulpa Daily Herald article contributed to by the Associated Press titled “Mother found guilty” stated, “She [Kelsey] was found with a broken collarbone, broken legs and bruises on her face and body indicating that extreme abuse had taken place.” This is a prime example of inflammatory reporting, which in no way represents fact. Her collarbone was not broken at the time of her death. Her legs were not broken when she was murdered; they were broken while in the care of Kathie Briggs as outlined in Smith’s trial. She was never “found” with these injuries, as suggested. The facts are brutal enough and need not be over-sensationalized. In fact, during the trial the DA used a similar tactic and presented three separate sets of pictures of the same injuries that Kelsey received in an automobile accident on August 19, 2005, pictures that have been distributed to document Kelsey’s abuse, but in fact were the result of a hit and run.
At one point during the trial, the prosecution offered Raye Dawn Smith a blind plea deal. This is fact. They asked her to plead guilty to spanking Kelsey one time – and through a diaper – with a hair brush, and all other charges of abuse and enabling abuse would be dropped. Raye Dawn refused saying, “I didn’t do it; I won’t take it!”
District Attorney Smothermon blatantly lied to the jury in his closing statement when he said that Raye Dawn wanted to keep an instance with Michael Porter quiet. Porter had put tape on Kelsey’s eyes. Even though this was done as a supposed game, where Kelsey was laughing with numerous other children present and participating, Raye Dawn Smith did in fact report this to the OSBI (Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation), as she was under so much scrutiny because of Briggs’ claims and wanted to report anything out of the ordinary. This intentional lie by Smothermon paves the way for a possible appeal.
During the trial, Reverend Charles Pearcy was brought in as a defense witness. He counseled Smith at the hospital where Kelsey was pronounced deceased. Reverend Charles Pearcy stated that Raye Dawn wanted to see her baby and when he stepped in the room to comfort her, Raye Dawn was sitting alone rocking Kelsey in her arms and talking to her through tears. He also stated that Smith was happy when hearing that there would be an autopsy saying, “I want to know what happened to her.” However, Porter failed to comfort his wife even once and kept telling Pearcy, “I think I was too rough with [Kelsey].”
A former Prague police officer, Scott Murrison, also called as a defense witness, recalled seeing Porter beating the bed of a pickup outside the hospital. The former officer testified Porter as saying, “She’s never going to forgive me. She’s never going to forgive me.”
After a two-hour deliberation, the jury found Raye Dawn Smith guilty and suggested a 27-year sentence.
This has been an emotional case for all involved. It, however, is unfortunate that emotion outweighed sensibility and logic as the evidence and testimony did not warrant such an outcome. The prosecution failed to prove that Raye Dawn ever abused Kelsey as much as they failed to prove that she ever “willfully” or “maliciously” allowed anyone to abuse her.
The fact is there can never be any real justice when it comes to a child’s murder. Their lives are cut short for no purpose. Yet, when reason fails in the face of political and financial gain, it is not simply a grieving mother who finds her life gratuitously destroyed; it is every citizen who finds himself or herself waking in a far more dangerous world, where freedom is taken for the crimes of another.