Abuse, Murder, and a Wrongful Conviction

Case summary from "The Naked Truth Bound in Scorn," copyrighted material used by permission from the author, Jody Ortiz.


 Kelsey Shelton Smith was born into a broken home on December 28, 2002. Kelsey’s mom, Raye Dawn Smith, divorced Kelsey’s dad Raymond Lance (Robinson) Briggs, before Kelsey was born. Raymond, who goes by “Lance,” was born and raised with the surname of Robinson, but he changed his name to his stepfather’s surname—Briggs—just before marrying Raye and without a legal adoption.

Raye had allegedly suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Lance during their two year marriage.

Raye stated about the relationship: “I married Raymond Lance Briggs July of 2000. I lost my first child that month at three months due to a blow to the stomach by the fist of Lance. Other than that time he had hit on me several times leaving black eyes, a bruised rib, my hair pulled out, and a lot of my stuff throughout the house that all meant something to me he would break. He even threw my Pomeranian dog against the wall at one time. He busted my nose at the river in front of all of our friends one summer.[1] I finally got enough of all of that and left. I went to live back with my parents. Lance a few weeks later broke into the house we lived in while we were married and broke a bathroom mirror, threw groceries all over the kitchen, threw stuff in the pond, in the creek, and plus stole some school albums…”

In early 2002, Raye and Lance separated and she began dating another man before the divorce was final. When Raye discovered she was pregnant, she prayed that the baby did not belong to Lance, but a paternity test proved he was the father. The parties went to court and a hyphen was added to Kelsey’s last name. She would be known as Kelsey Shelton Smith-Briggs, taking the name of Lance’s stepfather along with her maternal family’s name. (Kelsey was a suggestion from Raye’s grandmother, Mildred, and Shelton was Raye’s father’s middle name.) Kelsey’s new legal name and double birth announcements (one for baby girl Smith and one for baby girl Briggs) would be telling of the battle for Kelsey that would create an explosive atmosphere that would allow an unforeseen tragedy to end her life just months before her third birthday.

Kelsey lived a fairly normal life for the first two years with no allegations of abuse from either family. Things changed when Raye started dating a man named Mike Porter in the fall of 2004 at the same time that Kathie Briggs, Kelsey's paternal grandmother, was awarded grandparent visitation. Bruises were noticed on Kelsey by her daycare worker after she returned from her visits with Kathie. Raye describes seeing bruises on Kelsey’s legs that looked like “finger marks” and a bruise on her ear. Raye states that she assumed they were from Kathie or Lance or that Kelsey had a medical problem and bruised easily—a test determined the latter was not the issue. Kathie states that she assumed Raye was to blame. Because of the tension that was a powder keg ready to explode if one side dared to withhold Kelsey during a scheduled time for her to be with the other family, the families did not get along well, nor did they communicate on Kelsey’s behalf. The situation grew far worse when a former friend of Kelsey’s maternal grandmother told her to “get ready” because Lance and Kathie were going to “seek custody of Kelsey.” This warning was later echoed in court when Kathie stated on the stand that Lance’s new wife told her that she didn’t want to have children of her own, “she’d just keep Kelsey.” Statements such as these that were based on hearsay only added to the tension.

In January of 2005 Kelsey broke her clavicle (the most commonly broken bone in children) reportedly after a fall from her crib. At the end of January, bruises and scratches on her bottom that were discovered approximately four hours after Kathie and Lance had Kelsey at their respective homes were termed “abuse” by her paternal family when she was taken to the emergency room. Kelsey was then taken from Raye.

Four months passed with Kelsey in Kathie’s care and Raye seeing Kelsey during supervised and then unsupervised visits after Raye fully cooperated with the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS). Reports show that she completed every course and every evaluation she needed to accomplish in order to regain custody of Kelsey.

Hearings were held in Judge Key’s courtroom, with one person missing from each and every hearing, Kelsey’s father.

Abuse allegations continued to be made against Raye that were unfounded, “screened out,” and termed “normal childhood injuries” by child welfare workers. Kathie stated in court that she undressed Kelsey and took pictures of her and that she had three to four witnesses view Kelsey’s entire body each time she would arrive at her home and each time she left. Witnesses state that Kelsey began counting her bruises and self-mutilating by biting and scratching herself and picking at her fingernails and toenails—one toenail she had completely picked off on the day that she died.

Judge Craig Key described Kelsey’s strange behavior in his book about the case. He stated, “Although she was in protective custody, it was apparent that Kelsey wasn’t adjusting to being in the Briggs home. A red flag was raised for me, as a judge, when DHS told me Kelsey’s hair began falling out in clumps while in the care of Kathie Briggs. Kelsey’s hair was falling out to the point that she had a bald spot on the back of her head the size of a baseball. She began self-mutilating by biting her arms, and as clearly stated in Kelsey’s obituary submitted by the Briggs, she was apparently biting the Briggs family as well. Kelsey’s behavior and hair loss during this time were all documented by DHS…Why Kelsey acted differently while in the custody of Kathie Briggs is unclear. Why Kelsey was timid, lethargic, and asleep during almost every DHS visit is also unclear. But what’s clear is the tug-of-war was starting to get to the child both mentally and physically.”[2]

In April of 2005, Raye married Mike Porter. Her father had lost his battle with cancer the previous year and with everything Raye was facing in fighting for her daughter, she needed someone to be a knight in shining armor for her. Mike Porter fit the description. He had custody of his eight-year-old daughter and regular visitation with his son who was slightly younger than Kelsey. Mike Porter claimed that he was a college graduate (untrue) and he inherited the family business after both of his parents died. He seemed to be just what Raye and Kelsey needed in their lives.

Just days before the marriage ceremony, Kelsey sprained her ankle while at the zoo with her maternal aunt and she was returned to Kathie’s home with a doctor’s note. Four days later when Raye picked Kelsey up from Kathie’s home, Kelsey refused to walk. Kathie claimed she took a couple of steps and then crawled for the rest of the week. Kathie didn’t think anything about it. She had taken Kelsey to the emergency room for a bump on her nose, but she didn’t see a need for a second opinion when Kelsey couldn’t walk.

 Raye took Kelsey to a doctor when her legs became progressively worse and the doctor stated that the first fracture was consistent with Kelsey’s fall at the zoo and that her other leg had been injured more recently and was from overcompensation. Kelsey then went through two sets of casts. Raye and Gayla Smith, Raye’s mom, had the casts put on, and Kathie had the first set removed after only six days. After Kelsey’s legs were determined to be broken from abuse by a doctor Kathie had found and reportedly told that Raye was abusing Kelsey, Kelsey was removed from Kathie’s home and placed with her maternal grandmother, Gayla.[3]

According to records and witnesses, Kelsey lost weight and hair while with Kathie. A bald spot the size of a baseball was discovered. Once removed from Kathie’s home, Kelsey reportedly improved.

After DHS viewed Kelsey’s interactions with both Kathie and Raye during separate, supervised visits at the DHS office and reported their findings at a hearing in June in Judge Key’s courtroom, Kelsey was returned to Raye’s custody with three child welfare services assigned by the Judge to watch over Kelsey and visit her home on an almost daily basis.

A total of five agencies were involved in Kelsey’s life at this point, and they were: Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Comprehensive Home Based Services (CHBS), Department of Human Services (DHS - Oklahoma’s child protective service), the District Attorney’s office, and a Guardian ad litem. None of the services in Kelsey’s home ever brought to Raye’s attention that there was anything unusual going on in her home. The “experts” didn’t suspect abuse, and neither did Raye.

Once Kelsey went home with Raye, Kathie quit visiting Kelsey. It was reported that she did not want to be supervised because she did not like what was said about her in court.

In August of 2005, Kelsey, Raye Dawn, and Mike Porter were in a hit-and-run accident. The man who hit the truck was pulled over a few blocks from the accident and was charged with drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident. He caused over $14,000 in damage, bending the frame of Mike Porter’s truck and shattering the back glass where Kelsey was sitting.[4] Against the rules, Kathie attended a visit with Kelsey and her stepmother shortly after the accident. Kathie took video and pictures of Kelsey’s injuries from the accident to later use to gain custody of Kelsey, but they have since been used to show “abuse.”

Kelsey lost her appetite and started to deteriorate after the accident, so Raye took Kelsey to specialists and signed her up for play therapy in an effort to determine what was happening to her daughter.

On October 11, 2005, Raye and Kelsey were napping together in the master bedroom. Raye only had two pull-ups left and Kelsey was in the process of potty training. She had an accident just before their nap, so Kelsey went to sleep wearing only a long, black t-shirt and no underwear or diaper.

Mike Porter arrived home from work between 2:30 and 2:45 PM. Raye awoke to Mike Porter standing above her and she left Kelsey in her bed sleeping while she drove the forty- to fifty-minute round trip to pick up Mike Porter’s eight-year-old daughter from school in a nearby town.

When Raye returned home, Kelsey was in the arms of a first responder, and was being passed to an EMT. Raye screamed and ran to the ambulance. She noticed that Kelsey was wearing a pull-up. Mike Porter later stated that he had put it on her because he didn’t want anyone “thinking anything” about her not wearing pants. He told Raye that he found a pull-up on the bar, but Raye states the pull-ups were in a bathroom closet.

On that day, Mike Porter described Kelsey’s episode as a seizure, and nobody in the family questioned it since Kelsey had been reportedly having seizures for a while.

Kathie called the sheriff’s office on the night of Kelsey’s death and stated that it was murder and that her ex-daughter-in-law, Raye, had done it. She had already begun a quest to put Raye in prison for murder. Later, it became clear she was willing to take down anyone who got in the way of her stated mission.

Autopsy results showed that Kelsey had suffered from a possible sexual assault and that her death was from “blunt force trauma to the abdomen,” which meant she had been murdered. (A second autopsy confirmed the sexual assault.) Shortly after Kelsey’s death Mike Porter was charged with first degree murder. The charge of sexual assault was added in April of 2006 after the second autopsy confirmed “signs of repeated, forcible sexual assault.”

Five years later, the focus is still on Raye.

[1] See Appendix B – Exhibit 12

[2] Key, Craig. A Deadly Game of Tug of War: The Kelsey Smith-Briggs Story. Garden City, NY: Morgan James Publishing, 2007. p. 51-52.

[3] The issue with Kelsey’s broken legs is explained in more detail later in the book.

[4] See AppendixB – Exhibit 1


To view the exhibits and read more about this heartbreaking case as well as the hate that put Raye in prison, read "The Naked Truth Bound in Scorn" at www.boundinscorn.com.

The above summary is copyrighted material that is used by permission from the author. For permission to publish or quote, contact Jody Ortiz at jo@jodyortiz.com.