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Social worker faced charge

By Nolan Clay And Ann Weaver Published: December 2, 2005
CHANDLER A private child welfare worker in the Kelsey Smith-Briggs case was accused in 1997 of beating her daughter with a fly swatter, records show.

The discovery of the misdemeanor charge is the latest twist in the murder case that has raised widespread questions about whether the state's child welfare system is adequate.

The worker, Patti Jean Bonner, saw Kelsey the same day the toddler died, allegedly from abuse.

Bonner, 49, works for Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services Inc., a private agency hired by the state Department of Human Services.

Bonner was charged in 1997 with assault, a misdemeanor. Prosecutors later dropped the charge. Her current boss said he did not know any of that.

"Well, I'll look into it, of course, Director Thomas Reid said.

He said Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services gets criminal background checks on all employees and also gets approval to hire from the Department of Human Services.

He said Bonner has worked for five or six years for Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services.

"I feel she's very competent in what she does, Reid said. "Just because you're accused of something doesn't necessarily mean you're guilty.

He said their background checks are done by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The OSBI said Thursday it was not sent a record of Bonner's misdemeanor charge.

"Only if they're fingerprinted do we get those, spokeswoman Jessica Brown said.

Questions raised

Kelsey was 2. She died Oct. 11, after her new stepfather allegedly struck her in the abdomen at their home near Meeker.

The stepfather, Michael Lee Porter, 25, has been charged with first-degree murder.

The tragedy has raised questions primarily because Kelsey suffered broken bones and bruises before. The Department of Human Services repeatedly had investigated reports of abuse.

Kelsey had been taken from her mother, Raye Dawn Porter, in January because of alleged abuse, then returned in June by Associate District Judge Craig Key.

Bonner visited Kelsey 18 times between July 7 and Oct. 11, records show.

She told investigators Kelsey was climbing on her mother on the last visit Oct. 11, just hours before her death.

Bonner described Kelsey as "ornery, just like a normal 2-year-old girl.

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