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Kelsey Smith-Briggs' death lawsuit brings $625K deal

Nolan Clay Modified: June 30, 2009 at 10:25 am •  Published: June 30, 2009
The state of Oklahoma paid $525,000 Monday to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit over the murder of Kelsey Smith-Briggs, and a private agency paid $100,000.

A federal judge Monday approved the $625,000 settlement but will decide later how to split the money.

The girl’s father filed the lawsuit and represents her estate, but her mother, who is in prison for enabling Kelsey’s abuse, wants half.

Kelsey, 2, died from abuse on Oct. 11, 2005, at her home near Meeker.

The slaying became a high-publicity case that exposed serious flaws in how the Department of Human Services protects abused children. An oversight agency found DHS made a series of mistakes in the abused child’s case, such as failing to contact police when she broke both legs. The case led to reforms.

Girl’s killer still is unknown
Who killed the girl remains a mystery. Her stepfather, Michael Lee Porter, 29, was charged with first-degree murder and child sexual abuse but pleaded guilty instead to enabling child abuse. He is serving a 30-year prison sentence. He blamed the girl’s mother for her death.

The mother, Raye Dawn Smith, 29, was never charged with murder. She was convicted at trial of enabling child abuse and is serving a 27-year prison sentence. "Kelsey was my best friend in the entire world and it hurts so bad for people to say the things they do. ... I didn’t hurt Kelsey and ... I didn’t sit back and let it happen,” she said after her trial.

Kelsey died even though DHS workers, a private child-welfare worker and a judge were overseeing her care because of evidence she had been repeatedly abused.

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Mom wants

her share

A parent convicted of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or first-degree manslaughter is barred from any interest in a victim’s estate under state law.

The ban "clearly” does not apply to someone convicted of enabling child abuse, Raye Dawn Smith’s attorney contends.

Attorney Stephen Jones said Smith deserves half of the net settlement — what is left after Lance Briggs’ attorneys are paid.

He said Smith has always professed her innocence and is appealing her conviction. He contends mistakes at her trial included sleeping jurors.

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