BRISTOW — A pastor testified Tuesday that Raye Dawn Smith cried out to him at a hospital after her daughter died, saying, "Why did God take my baby?” The defense witness, Charles Pearcy, told jurors he held Smith and said, "I don't know. Let's talk to Him and ask Him.” They then prayed together. He was one of nine defense witnesses who have testified so far at Smith's child-abuse trial. Jurors today are to hear from at least one more defense witness and, possibly, closing arguments. Defense attorneys are trying to show the mother did not behave like someone who would abuse a child. Smith, 27, is charged with child abuse or enabling child abuse. Her daughter, Kelsey Smith-Briggs, 2, died Oct. 11, 2005, at their home near Meeker. Kelsey was taken to the Prague hospital that afternoon in a failed effort to revive her. Prosecutors allege the mother either abused Kelsey or knew or should have known her then-husband was abusing the girl and did not stop it. She denies wrongdoing. Her attorneys say her then-husband, Michael Lee Porter, killed the girl. Pearcy, pastor of the Meeker Assembly of God, said Smith was part of the church off and on for years. He described how the mother reacted at the hospital when told Kelsey's body would be autopsied. He recalled she said, "I'm glad, because I want to know what has happened to my baby.” He also described how Smith rocked Kelsey's body at the hospital and talked to the dead child. "I can never talk about this without choking up,” the pastor said. "I'll never forget it.” The pastor testified Porter acted strangely at the hospital. The witness said Porter also questioned why God took Kelsey, made agonizing noises, bounced off the walls and beat his fists on the floor. Porter did not comfort his wife, jurors were told. The pastor said he thought Porter was overreacting, that there was something that didn't seem right. "It bothered me. It really troubled me that he was responding the way he was responding,” Pearcy said. He said Porter seemed to have a tremendous amount of guilt. The pastor said Porter explained he was with Kelsey at the house and thought the child was having a seizure. The pastor said Porter claimed he tried to save her with CPR. "He said, ‘I just hope I wasn't too rough with her,'” the pastor said. Another witness, former Prague police officer Scott Murrison, said he saw Porter pounding the bed of a pickup outside the hospital. The former officer recalled Porter saying, "She's never going to forgive me. She's never going to forgive me.” Porter, 27, denies hurting Kelsey. He told jurors last week he thinks his ex-wife is responsible for Kelsey's death. He said he discovered Kelsey was in bed not breathing shortly after his wife left him alone with the girl. The two divorced after Kelsey died. He also told jurors he saw his ex-wife abuse Kelsey three times. Porter is serving 30 years in prison. He once was charged with sexually assaulting and murdering Kelsey but pleaded guilty instead to enabling child abuse under a deal with prosecutors. Other defense witnesses described how Porter threatened to commit suicide two days after Kelsey died. Smith's attorneys contend he was faking. Porter at first had a gun in the bedroom of his house and then was believed to have overdosed on Tylenol pills there, witnesses said. During the trial, jurors were told Kelsey suffered repeated injuries in the months before her death. She was taken from her mother for a while and later split time between her mother and paternal grandmother, Kathie Briggs. She later spent about six weeks at her maternal grandmother's house before being returned to her mother in mid-June 2005. Her mother took Kelsey to a Shawnee medical clinic on April 25, 2005, after the child returned from Briggs' house and couldn't walk, according to testimony. Doctors there found she had broken both shin bones. Doctors later concluded the broken legs were caused by abuse. Defense witnesses also have told jurors the mother mostly used timeouts to discipline Kelsey. Two of Smith's sisters, a sister-in-law and a friend testified Tuesday they were often around Porter and saw nothing that would indicate to them he was capable of abuse.
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Judge won't testifyA controversial former judge will not be testifying at the child-abuse trial for the mother of Kelsey Smith-Briggs. Former Lincoln County Associate District Judge Craig Key has been widely criticized for returning the toddler to her mother four months before the girl's death. The mother's attorneys wanted to use him as a defense witness. The trial judge, Paul Vassar, refused Tuesday to allow it, without explanation. Prosecutors had warned letting the ex-judge testify could turn the trial into a circus.