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Kelsey lost her spirit weeks before death, grandmother testifies

BRISTOW — The outspoken grandmother of Kelsey Smith-Briggs told jurors today that the 2-year-old had changed for the worse when they were last together weeks before her death.

By Nolan Clay Modified: August 23, 2009 at 9:04 pm •  Published: July 11, 2007
BRISTOW — The outspoken grandmother of Kelsey Smith-Briggs told jurors today that the 2-year-old had changed for the worse when they were last together weeks before her death.

"She was different,” Kathie Briggs said of the Aug. 27, 2005, visit. "She looked like she had lost her spirit.”

Her testimony came on the third day of the child-abuse trial for Kelsey's mother, Raye Dawn Smith.

Kelsey died Oct. 11, 2005, at the home of her mother and stepfather near Meeker. "We didn't have an open casket,” Briggs said. "I never saw Kelsey again.”

Prosecutors today called Briggs and Kelsey's stepmother, Ashley Gober, to testify that they saw injuries on Kelsey in 2005 after she had been with her mother. Jurors have heard about Kelsey's broken collarbone, broken legs, bumps around her nose and bruises on her face, back and rear.

Briggs is the paternal grandmother. She has been vocal in calling for justice and reforms since Kelsey's death. Her efforts contributed to the passage of a new law and the election defeat of the judge who gave Kelsey back to her mother four months before her death.

Briggs got guardianship of Kelsey for awhile after Kelsey's stepmother found suspicious bruises and injuries on the child's back and rear on Jan. 14, 2005, days after Kelsey broke her collarbone while with her mother, according to testimony.

She eventually was going back and forth between Briggs' house and her mother for a couple of months, according to testimony. Her father, Lance Briggs, was in the military but she saw him when he was on leave. Kelsey was put in the care of her maternal grandmother, Gayla Smith, after breaking both legs in April 2005. A judge ruled Kelsey could go back to her mother immediately on June 15, 2005.

She had been with her mother all the time for two months when Kathie Briggs last saw her.

In testimony about the legs, Kathie Briggs said she was told that Kelsey had sprained her ankle at the zoo. She said later Kelsey was returned to her with casts on both legs. She said she took Kelsey to an Oklahoma City doctor in May 2005 and was told there Kelsey had been abused.

"I was nauseous,” Briggs said.

Jurors on Tuesday heard from Kelsey's stepfather, who said in a choked voice that he saw Smith abuse the child three times and covered it up.

"I was protecting the wrong person,” said Michael Lee Porter, who wore orange jail clothes and remained handcuffed and in leg irons while testifying. "I was trying to protect my wife. It was a mistake and I'm paying for that mistake and Kelsey's paying for it.”

He and Smith married in April 2005 and divorced after Kelsey's death.

Prosecutors have told jurors they must decide whether Smith, 27, abused her daughter or let Porter abuse the child. She denies wrongdoing.

Porter said he knows Smith is responsible for Kelsey's death. He described finding the child in bed not breathing after hearing a guttural noise after Smith left their house the afternoon of Oct.

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