Oklahoma City man avoids death for child killing

Nolan Clay Published: August 7, 2009
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A child killer was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murder plus three more life terms for abuse.

Kerry Joe Smith, 23, of Oklahoma City pleaded guilty after reaching an agreement with prosecutors. The deal spared him from a possible death sentence at trial.

Smith physically and sexually abused his girlfriend’s two children, a girl and her younger brother. The girl, Olivia Scroggins, died on Aug. 20, 2007, after Smith hit her. She was 23 months old.

Olivia’s paternal grandmother, Tynia Berry, of Spencer had at first opposed the plea agreement but said after the sentencing she was OK with it.

"I know that this is not the end. The Lord said, ‘Vengeance is mine.’... He has to stand before God.”

She had reported suspicions about Smith to the Department of Human Services but she said Thursday she wishes she had done more.

"If you suspect something, don’t give up. If you have to call somebody every day, you call them every day and don’t just let them tell you, ‘There’s nothing we can do.’... Now I know that persistence is what counts.”

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said of the plea agreement, "In every case like this, it’s difficult to determine what justice is.


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