Recent Articles from NewsOK and The Oklahoman

  • Mom found guilty; jury hands down 27-year prison term

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Sun, Aug 23, 2009

    BRISTOW — The mother of Kelsey Smith-Briggs sobbed, "I don't understand. Help me,” in court Wednesday after jurors found her guilty of allowing the girl to be abused.

  • Pastor testifies for defense in Smith's trial

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Sun, Aug 23, 2009

    BRISTOW — A pastor testified today that Raye Dawn Smith cried out to him at the hospital after her daughter died Oct. 11, 2005, asking, "Why did God take my baby?”

  • Smith weeps during testimony about Kelsey's injuries

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Sun, Aug 23, 2009

    BRISTOW — Raye Dawn Smith wept again today as jurors saw autopsy photos and diagrams of the bruises, scrapes and other injuries to her dead daughter’s body.

  • Defense opens in abuse trial

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Sun, Aug 23, 2009

    BRISTOW — The first defense witness at the child-abuse trial for Raye Dawn Smith said Monday the mother wanted an autopsy to find out why her 2-year-old daughter died in 2005, but her new husband opposed it.

  • Indictment brings perjury counts

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Fri, Dec 21, 2007

    A longtime Department of Human Services employee has been indicted for allegedly lying to the state grand jury 13 times, including about misuse of her state computer. Barbette Estelle Hull, 45, of Poteau will keep her data services job for now, a DHS spokesman said. A just-started administrative...

  • Kelsey's mom loses bid for new trial

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Wed, Dec 5, 2007

    BRISTOW — The mother of Kelsey Smith-Briggs has lost her first bid for a new trial. Raye Dawn Smith is serving 27 years in prison for enabling child abuse. Jurors in July found Smith, 28, guilty of allowing her then-husband to abuse Kelsey. In a decision filed Tuesday, her trial judge,...

  • DHS falls behind on cases

    By Randy Ellis | Updated: Wed, Dec 5, 2007

    Despite increased funding from the Legislature, the state Department of Human Services is falling behind on its investigations of child abuse and neglect complaints. The department had 363 child welfare referrals pending for more than 60 days in October 2007, which is more than double the 179...

  • Single moms adding strain for DHS

    By Randy Ellis | Updated: Wed, Dec 5, 2007

    Nearly 41 percent of the babies born in Oklahoma in 2006 were born to unwed mothers. That percentage has been increasing for decades — both in Oklahoma and across the nation. The trend — with out-of-wedlock births hitting 40.9 percent in Oklahoma in 2006 — is placing a strain on Oklahoma's...

  • Advocates want new state law

    By Jennifer Mock | Updated: Sat, Dec 1, 2007

    Not all adoptions done through an attorney are bad. Dierdre McCool, executive director of the Deaconess Pregnancy and Adoption Services, wants to make that clear from the beginning. But the state law has different regulations for adoptions through an agency versus one done by an attorney,...

  • $23M bond could fund DHS plans

    By Michael McNutt | Updated: Thu, Nov 29, 2007

    A proposal by the state Department of Human Services that includes replacing its outdated emergency children's shelter in Tulsa will move forward. The state Council of Bond Oversight approved the request Thursday to issue up to $23 million in revenue bonds to build a new shelter in Tulsa, buy...

  • Who's watching your children?

    By Nolan Clay, Randy Ellis and Ryan McNeill | Updated: Fri, Nov 23, 2007

    The state is gambling that a cop shooter, admitted child abusers, prostitutes and dozens of other former criminals are reformed enough to be around day care children, an investigation by The Oklahoman has found. And parents are kept largely in the dark. The Department of Human...

  • Some kids still hungry

    By Jennifer Mock | Updated: Fri, Nov 9, 2007

    Some children in Oklahoma are hungry, and more volunteers are needed to help feed them, faith-based groups were told Thursday. More than 50 representatives from numerous faith-based organizations gathered Thursday for a hunger conference sponsored by the state Department of Human Services. The...

  • DHS boosts oversight

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Sat, Nov 3, 2007

    The state Department of Human Services will create a small committee to decide which former criminals will be allowed in day cares, instead of relying on the judgment of a single official. "You get more consistency,” Director Howard Hendrick said. The director announced the change after an...

  • Foster parents seeking support

    By Randy Ellis | Updated: Wed, Oct 31, 2007

    Oklahoma foster care parents are stressed out and struggling because of low reimbursement rates and poor support and communication from state Department of Human Services workers, members of the state House Human Services Committee were told on Tuesday. "I've had some wonderful social workers,...

  • Check out your day care online

    | Updated: Sun, Oct 28, 2007

    Check out your day care online To find out whether someone with a criminal background has been granted a waiver to work or live at your child's day care, go to www.newsok.com/news/dhswaivers . The site contains detailed information about waivers granted between Jan. 1, 2006, and July 19,...

  • Who fails checks?

    From Staff Reports | Updated: Sat, Oct 27, 2007

    Many parents with children in day cares take comfort in knowing that day care workers and adults who live in home day cares are required to undergo state criminal background checks. What many parents don't know is that even people who fail the checks often get clearance to be in day cares,...

  • Couple's lie led to DHS waiver

    By Nolan Clay and Sheila Stogsdill | Updated: Sat, Oct 27, 2007

    CHOUTEAU — James C. Bridges admits he and his wife lied about his criminal case to get an exemption so she could open a day care in their home. Bridges, 32, pleaded guilty in 2006 to contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor. He and his wife told the state Department of Human...

  • Caretaker charged with rape

    By Nolan Clay and Randy Ellis | Updated: Wed, Oct 24, 2007

    McALESTER — A longtime Department of Human Services employee has been charged with rape after he reportedly confessed to having sex "on numerous occasions” with a developmentally disabled woman under foster care in his home. James L. Smith, 62, was charged Monday with first-degree rape, a felony....

  • U.S. law pushed boy home before he died
    Tribal statute advocates reunifying split families

    By Nolan Clay and Randy Ellis | Updated: Thu, Oct 4, 2007

    A new report on the alleged murder of an Edmond boy reveals he was reunited with his mother because of a controversial federal law even though state officials wanted her parental rights terminated because of "shocking” abuse. Declan Stewart, 5, died Aug 12. He had been returned to his mother,...

  • Parents should be able to see records

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Tue, Oct 2, 2007

    New rules went into effect Monday requiring Oklahoma's day cares to have on site inspection reports and other records for parents to view. However, several of the state's more than 5,000 facilities may not have the information available yet, officials said. Policyholders at the state Department...

  • New rules meant to stop future tragedies

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Wed, Sep 26, 2007

    GUTHRIE — The Department of Human Services agreed Tuesday to implement new safety procedures in the care of the developmentally disabled to settle a lawsuit over a scalding death in Tulsa. DHS officials — meeting in Guthrie — also agreed to pay $135,000 to the mother of Julie Teenor. The...

  • DHS violated own policy

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Wed, Sep 26, 2007

    A state oversight agency has concluded the state Department of Human Services violated its own policies when it failed to close a Tulsa home day care months before a boy died after he was injured there. The agency faulted DHS officials for not supporting a frustrated licensing worker who, a full...

  • DHS employee faces criminal charges
    Case worker didn't believe claims of abuse

    By Jay F. Marks | Updated: Fri, Sep 21, 2007

    A young girl was sexually abused after a Department of Human Services case worker chose not to believe a 5-year-old's allegations against her foster brother, police say. Nancy Cannady, 63, was charged in Oklahoma County District Court on Friday with a misdemeanor count of failing to report the...

  • Hobart girl's relatives ‘devastated' by decision
    No indictments issued in sexual abuse case

    By Randy Ellis | Updated: Mon, Sep 17, 2007

    Head add, text edit

  • Day care operator faces abuse charge

    By Sheila Stogsdill | Updated: Fri, Sep 14, 2007

    ENID — Prosecutors this week charged an Enid woman with abusing a 6-month-old child in her unlicensed day care center. Kimberly D. Coulter, 22, was charged Tuesday in Garfield County District Court with one count of child abuse. Coulter is accused of shaking a boy who was in her care,...

  • Kelsey's mother gets 27 years in prison

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Mon, Sep 10, 2007

    Send back to write basket when finished, style changes on slot

  • Caregiver faces charges in death
    In mid-August woman applied for a license to run a day care, now she's in jail

    By Chad Previch | Updated: Sat, Sep 8, 2007

    Text edit

  • Signs of abuse not found

    By Randy Ellis | Updated: Thu, Sep 6, 2007

    Four days before a 23-month-old Oklahoma City girl was beaten to death, a state child welfare worker visited her home but found no significant problems, according to a Department of Human Services report released Thursday. Olivia Scroggins died Aug. 20 from alleged abuse, just four days after her...

  • MURDER
    Report: DHS worker faked forms in abuse case that ended with...

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Sun, Sep 2, 2007

    TULSA — A state Department of Human Services worker failed to properly investigate accusations a boy was being abused in the weeks leading up to his death and faked reports to cover up the blunder, a new report has revealed. DHS discovered the fabricated reports only after the boy was murdered by...

  • What will happen to boy?
    Arrest made in abandonment, but ...

    By Michael Kimball | Updated: Thu, Aug 30, 2007

    The future of Bryan Allen, a 3-year-old boy who was abandoned last week by a suspected shoplifter and went unclaimed and unidentified for five days, remains unclear. State Department of Human Services officials would not say Thursday whether the boy remained in state custody. They deviated from...

  • 3 women claim abandoned boy

    By Michael Kimball | Updated: Thu, Aug 30, 2007

    As a staff member at Oklahoma's Department of Human Services, Mary Leaver is accustomed to hearing sad stories about mistreated children. Dealing with painful tales of beaten, abused or abandoned children is part of daily life at DHS. But Leaver said she can't recall anything like what transpired...

  • DHS site gives link to records
    How you can see where your child's day care stands

    By Chad Previch | Updated: Thu, Aug 30, 2007

    Many day care records that have been tucked away in filing cabinets are now on the Internet for everyone to see. The state Department of Human Services on Tuesday put online thousands of compliance records concerning day care homes and centers, giving parents better access to information without...

  • DHS staff as foster parents: Criminal pasts and privacy

    By Randy Ellis | Updated: Sun, Aug 26, 2007

    Okfuskee County child- welfare worker Tracey Humphrey was summoned by a Department of Human Services supervisor in 2004 because of a complaint that she had punched a woman in the face at a Little League game. Her husband, Shannan Humphrey, pleaded no contest in Denton, Texas, in 2001 to a charge...

  • DHS staff as foster parents: State needs caregivers

    By Randy Ellis | Updated: Sun, Aug 26, 2007

    The Department of Human Services has let dozens of its employees become foster parents since lifting a ban that had been in place to avoid the appearance of favoritism and conflicts of interest, The Oklahoman has found in an ongoing review of the child-welfare agency. The change has led to...

  • Grandma faults DHS in death

    By Augie Frost and Randy Ellis | Updated: Thu, Aug 23, 2007

    A dead girl's paternal grandmother said Wednesday she warned officials at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services a week ago that her granddaughter, Olivia Scroggins, was in danger of being hurt. She said she doesn't know if they took any action to save the child. "They're not right,” Tynia...

  • What police found
    Warrant yields clues in boy's death ...

    By Nolan Clay and Diana Baldwin | Updated: Thu, Aug 16, 2007

    EDMOND — Police have seized a bed, washcloths, towels and other evidence from a house where a boy was fatally injured, after telling a judge "the stories given” by his mother and her boyfriend "are not consistent with his injuries,” court records show. The search Wednesday is another step...

  • Attorney may seek new trial

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Thu, Aug 16, 2007

    Send back to write basket when finished

  • DHS order means day care's closure

    By Randy Ellis | Updated: Thu, Aug 16, 2007

    Citing massive overcrowding, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services issued an emergency order Thursday directing Bernice Tyms to close her large family child care home in Lawton. Responding to a complaint, licensing officials visited the home Aug.8 and reported finding 29 children — more than...

  • Why death is a mystery

    By Nolan Clay, Randy Ellis and Diana Baldwin | Updated: Thu, Aug 16, 2007

    EDMOND — A dead boy's mother has said she left her son with her boyfriend Saturday to go to the store and later found him injured in a laundry hamper, according to secret Department of Human Services records. Declan Stewart, 5, died at a hospital after he suffered injuries Saturday evening....

  • Police continue inquiry in death

    By Diana Baldwin | Updated: Tue, Aug 14, 2007

    EDMOND — A 5-year-old boy died from blunt force trauma to the head, the state medical examiner said Tuesday. Exactly what caused the injury to Declan Stewart won't be determined for a couple of weeks while the case is being investigated, said Kevin Rowland, medical examiner spokesman. The...

  • ME: Edmond boy died from head trauma

    By Diana Baldwin | Updated: Tue, Aug 14, 2007

    EDMOND — A 5-year-old Edmond boy died from blunt force trauma to the head, the state Medical Examiner said Tuesday. But exactly how Declan Stewart received those injuries will be pending for a couple of weeks while the investigation into his death is completed, said Kevin Rowland, the medical...

  • DA wants to know how boy, 5, died

    By Diana Baldwin | Updated: Tue, Aug 14, 2007

    EDMOND — The death of a 5-year-old Edmond boy is being called suspicious by the district attorney. Declan Stewart died Saturday evening after Edmond police were told the boy fell in his closet and hit his head. The incident originally was labeled as an accident by Edmond police and fire...

  • Panel will review DHS actions

    By Randy Ellis | Updated: Mon, Aug 13, 2007

    HOBART — A Kiowa County grand jury will convene Sept. 10 to investigate a grandmother's allegations that her 8-year-old granddaughter has been sexually abused for more than five years and that the state Department of Human Services and local district attorney have refused to take action. The...

  • DHS chief cleared

    By Randy Ellis | Updated: Tue, Aug 7, 2007

    Oklahoma's attorney general has cleared the director of Oklahoma's child welfare agency of a child neglect complaint made in connection with accidental burns suffered by the director's son. "This letter is to inform you that the result of our investigation of a child neglect complaint against you...

  • Boy left at store stays in DHS care for now

    By Jennifer Griswold | Updated: Tue, Aug 7, 2007

    NEWCASTLE — The mother of a 2-year-old boy who was left in a convenience store will have to wait until investigations by police and child welfare specialists are completed to get her son back, officials said. Erica Hinojosa of Pierceville, Kan., met Monday with Newcastle police officers and...

  • Parents' day care dilemma: Homes vs. centers

    By Chad Previch | Updated: Tue, Aug 7, 2007

    Ask Carly Gilkerson to list things she hopefully never has to do again and picking a day care provider is probably near the top. The Edmond mother has done it twice and neither time was smooth. "It's a huge pain,” she said. "When you find somebody good, don't let them go.” Her two children, Sara,...

  • Day care standards lauded as a ‘first step in the right direction'

    By Michael McNutt | Updated: Sat, Aug 4, 2007

    New rules that call for day cares to post problems by their front doors and quicker action to close dangerous day cares were among standards approved Friday by Gov. Brad Henry. The governor signed the rules, which were proposed last month by the Department of Human Services. DHS commissioners...

  • What the future holds for day care

    By Chad Previch | Updated: Fri, Aug 3, 2007

    TULSA — The state Department of Human Services needs to do more to protect children in day care, a state House committee was told Thursday during a hearing that often drew tears and disagreement. Legislators were told emergency orders to shut down operations should be done faster, that the DHS...

  • Day cares face stricter regulations under rules

    By Nolan Clay | Updated: Wed, Jul 25, 2007

    Send back to write basket when done

  • DHS director investigated over son's injuries

    By Randy Ellis | Updated: Wed, Jul 25, 2007

    The director of Oklahoma's child welfare agency is under investigation because of burns his son suffered while on a family trip. Howard Hendrick, director of the Department of Human Services, confirmed the investigation Tuesday and said he is cooperating fully with authorities. The state attorney...



Multimedia

DHS Investigative Team

Nolan Clay


Sr. Reporter

Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials, exposed shysters and resulted in reforms in such areas as day care oversight and workers' compensation court. He is a proud father and longtime fan of University of Oklahoma football. His wedding in 2001 was on the 50-yard line of OU's football field.

Randy Ellis


Capitol Bureau Reporter

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two college presidents being sentenced to prison and a former chancellor being forced to resign. He has written about abuses of Oklahoma's workers' compensation system, corruption in the state's municipal bond industry, bid-rigging by county officials, self-dealing by state housing officials, misconduct involving state legislators and a variety of other topics. Ellis has won more than 80 state, regional and national awards for journalistic excellence. Prior to joining The Oklahoman in 1982, Ellis worked at Arkansas newspapers. He is a 1977 graduate of Kansas State University.

The Oklahoman's Watchdog team is a dedicated group of journalists here to expose corruption in Oklahoma. If you have any information about possible fraud, waste or abuse click on the
Whistle Blower link above or call
(405) 475-3322 and let us know.