CHANDLER - A judge said Thursday he returned Kelsey Smith-Briggs to her mother in June because state law gave him no other choice.
Associate District Judge Craig Key spoke out after a new report revealed he went against a recommendation from the state Department of Human Services.
His decision is controversial because Kelsey, 2, died four months later from alleged abuse at the Meeker home of her stepfather and mother.
The stepfather, Michael Lee Porter, 25, is charged with first-degree murder. The mother, Raye Dawn Porter, 26, is under investigation. Each denies ever abusing Kelsey.
The case has prompted calls for judicial and Department of Human Services reforms.
The judge said, "When there is no evidence to show the child is in imminent danger and a parent completes all their obligations under DHS's treatment plan, I'm required by law to return the child to the parents.
"That's exactly what I did - followed the letter of the law.
The judge also said: "I know every child on my caseload by name. There is nothing more important to me in my job than the juvenile docket. Anyone that knows me, knows that.
The judge said Thursday earlier allegations the mother abused Kelsey were not substantiated.
Kelsey had a broken collarbone and bruising in January and broken legs in April.
She was moved from her mother to her paternal grandparents to her maternal grandmother while child welfare workers investigated whether Kelsey suffered the injuries from abuse. Her father was away in the military.
The new five-page report summarizes what happened at the June 15-16 hearing where Kelsey was returned to her mother.
The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, a state agency, released the report Thursday. The commission released a 13-page report earlier.
At a June hearing, the judge agreed Kelsey had been abused but ruled the perpetrator was unknown. The judge heard from a dozen witnesses.
In the end, he let Kelsey go back to her mother immediately.