UPDATE 08-19-07: Well, it took 2 years, but someone in the media finally picked this up. The Big Story on Fox News Channel yesterday did a segment on it. They had Kelsey’s dad on and he was still so upset he broke into tears. I and the family, still hope something good can come out of her tragic story.
The Family of Kelsey Briggs has contacted me about their story. I have tried to put together, with what they have given me, something that tells a little about their story. Understand this is a condensed version and I hope you will take the time to read it.
The visits were going okay until Jan 8th when the mother, and ex-wife, did not show up with Kelsey. I, Kelsey’s Grandma, tried to locate her, but my calls were not returned.
When the mother finally showed up with Kelsey she explained Kelsey had fallen off her bed and broke her clavicle.
When the family got there and started to change her they noticed 29 bruises and multiple abrasions. The police were called and she was taken to the ER. The Meeker police were also called and they were to call DHHS. They determined it was an accident and forced us to give her back.
We went to court on Feb 4th and we received guardianship. The mother tried to point the finger at my son. It was determined he could not have done these injuries in the three hour window. The mother was ordered by DHHS to take Anger Management, Parenting Classes, and Drug and Alcohol Assessment. The mother was given supervised visitation with Kelsey three days per week; previously she was given unsupervised visitation.
Several times she came home with some bruises and we documented all of them and had people look her over for our protection. Our attorney advised us to do this since the mother had a history of accusing others. In March, she came home with a bruised nose and as the day went on, it swelled up, so I took her to the ER and they called DHHS.
When Lance, the father, came home, we had just picked Kelsey up and noticed she had bruises, so my daughter-in-law called DHHS so that they would not think Lance had done it.
On Apr 14th , the mother returned Kelsey to me with a sprained ankle and later her mother picked her up for her weekend. This is where the nightmare begins…On Mon the 25th the caseworker called and said the mother would be late bringing Kelsey home. She was in their office and both of Kelsey’s legs were swollen and hot to touch. The mother said that was how she was four days earlier when she picked her up. I had no idea what they were talking about and they just kept talking to me as if I knew she was injured this badly. Several teachers and the school nurse had seen Kelsey thirty minutes before she was picked up, and I told them to call them to verify she was fine. She stated they told the mother to take her to the doctor. Two hours later they called to say both of her legs were broken. The Doctor in Shawnee stated the first one must have been a missed diagnosis of the sprained ankle and the second one was a stress fracture from over compensation. They did not suspect abuse. I spoke to the Doctor myself and she assured me this was not unusual. We found out later this Doctor was the sister of the Attorney for the mother.
Second opinion: Dr. Sullivan told us that Kelsey did not have toddler fractures, and they were not stress fractures, but that some one had broken Kelsey’s legs. I did not know at the time that he had already showed the x-rays, that I had provided, to two other Doctor’s for their opinion and they all agreed.
I called Lincoln County DHHS the following morning to tell them what the Doctor said. That afternoon they called and wanted us to bring Kelsey to them and were placing her in a foster home. Meanwhile, my son beeped in and I told them I needed to talk to Lance; please call back in five minutes. My son had just landed in Germany and was leaving for Kuwait.
The next day after letting us worry all night we were told they gave her to the maternal Grandmother. We went for a just cause hearing and it was determined that the broken legs could have happened at either house and since the mother had pointed a finger at us she could not be left in our home.
My husband and I were given 4 hours per week of supervised visitation at the DHHS office for the next month; the mother was given the same thing. During this time, DHHS was conducting an investigation. We provided them with names of people who saw Kelsey the day she was at my house and they never contacted any of them. My grown daughter and her two children had moved in with us and she called them and asked to be interviewed. The school nurse finally contacted them, as well as my aunt that had been at my house. They never contacted me for an interview so I, finally, called them and the case worker only asked me questions about the visitation schedule. They had interviewed my husband after the just cause hearing, for a few minutes.
The case worker also recommended that Kelsey be given back to the mother and we get one hour supervised visitation per month. She also recommended my son be given the same visitation when he returns
The DHHS report was given to our attorney when court started. We were shocked at some of the things in it. There were many allegations made towards my son, his wife, and myself; that were unbelievable. The interviews from most of our family were either missing or partially reported. Our attorney, after looking over the report, believed the judge would have to rule in our favor.
The next morning Judge Craig Key came in, and without explanation, dissolved the guardianship. He stated that he over ruled anything the DHHS recommended, and he was returning the child to the mother. None of the grandparents would be allowed to see her. It is very difficult not being able to see our Granddaughter, but it is harder for my son.
At this time, I was fighting to clear my son’s name in this case, because they have him listed as an alleged perpetrator. He was not even here during any of these injuries. I feel they are slandering his name while he is off fighting a war in Iraq. To add insult to injury, when he comes home he may not be able to see his child; now he is fighting two wars.
Meanwhile, any extra money he would have had has gone to legal fees. Then when he comes home, he will have his name attached to a deprived child petition and have to fight to see his child all over again. I do not believe this is how our soldiers should be treated.
Well, something has gone terribly wrong in Lincoln County. We have heard that Lincoln County is one of the most corrupt counties in the state and now I believe it. I do not understand how a person in America can be tried in court, when they were not only out of state when the abuse happened, but were not present in court, was never served papers, and did not have council. Not to mention he was absent because he was called up to serve his country in a time of war.
Another court hearing was scheduled and it was decided, Ashley (Lance’s wife) could have five hours unsupervised visits every other Saturday. On August 19th, she went through a home visit evaluation and passed all the tests. However, the following morning, the DHHS worker called to say Kelsey had been in a car accident the night before, and her visit was canceled. She stated Kelsey was fine, and she had instructed Raye Dawn and Mike to take her to ER. They took her but got tired of waiting and left. Ashley was told her tummy was sore from the car seat, but that was the only problem. The following Saturday on August 27th the visit went on as planned. We were so excited to see her; we were expecting a happy healthy little Kelsey. We were shocked at what we saw. She had lost weight, had retinal hemorrhaging, sores in her mouth, bruises down one side of her face and left arm and appeared heavily medicated. Her condition was so frail; we felt she was not up to all of the other six Grandchildren coming over for a visit. We even cut our visit a little short so she could spend some one on one time with Ashley. We immediately started contacting the state workers in charge of her case. We were told it was the car accident that caused the injuries eight days before and the eye problem was due to allergies or seizures. We did not buy this since the bruises were still blue and seemed fresh. Many members of our family contacted DHS with concerns and we sent research on retinal hemorrhaging to question their diagnosis. The following week Kelsey’s pediatrician, the sister to Raye Dawn’s attorney, wrote a letter to the Judge stating Kelsey should not be transported between the two families; an emergency hearing to dissolve the visits were scheduled.
This same week Ashley told Lance she wanted a divorce and did not attend the hearing. Once Ashley was out of the picture, we no longer had a way to find information concerning Kelsey, as Grandparents do not have rights. Lance had already been injured in an accident in Iraq, and after the news of his divorce, he was allowed to come home a month early. He was devastated with that news but he knew he still had his little girl and was making plans for the two of them. He was in Ft. Benning GA, just days from his homecoming, when we got the call that Kelsey had died. Raye Dawn and Mike stated Kelsey had a seizure. When the autopsy came back, the death was ruled a homicide. The cause was blunt blow to the abdomen. Her stepfather, Mike Porter now sits in jail on first-degree murder charges, and the investigation is still pending. Mike Porter has filed for a divorce, from Raye Dawn, from jail. She is pregnant, and still under investigation. My son has filed a Tort Notice to the state of Oklahoma, letting them know he wants all documents concerning Kelsey. This is the first step for a civil suit in which he is asking for an excess of $15,000,000 and a complete overhaul of the DHHS system.
When Kelsey died everyone wanted to talk to us. Pott. County DHS called and wanted us to come in so they could open an investigation, but it was to little to late. So many people could have made a difference and they chose not to. People in the business of helping abused children ignored this child, but maybe because they let Kelsey down they will listen when the next child cries for help. When Kelsey was born months after her parents were divorced, I knew she must have a purpose and I wondered what it was. When my son was sent to war I feared he was not coming home and her purpose was for him to live on through her. Lance came home and Kelsey was the one who did not make it. That is when I knew her purpose; it is to send a message for change in our state and to save other children. We need new laws; we need an agency with authority over DHHS. Grandparents need rights to fight for these children when their parents are not capable of making good decisions. While my son was at war trying to protect the rights of another country, his own rights and those of his child were violated. This tragedy that could have been prevented has forever devastated our family. We did everything we could within the law, and the system failed Kelsey. Our elected officials could have and should have taken action when they heard our cries, if we do not have their attention now, they should not be re-elected. I ask each of you to take the time to write or call your state officials and ask them what they intend to do to help the helpless in our state. It is to late to save Kelsey, but there are hundreds of children in homes today with broken bones and bruises that were not accidents. Not only should the perpetrator be held accountable, but everyone who had knowledge of the abuse and those who failed to help as well.
We had a rally today at the state capital. We had children take empty wrapped gifts and place them under the state Christmas tree. Fifty-two, which represents how many children we lost to child abuse last year; plus Kelsey. I was a little hesitant about it, was worried people might think we were doing anything to get on TV, but really it was a message to our Governor. I don’t like putting my Grandchildren on TV to much. I would like to shield them from this, but the children at school did not allow that option. All in all, it went okay and the children were fine and happy to do something to help other children like Kelsey.
This was a very difficult story to put together, and I was recently informed by the family that Kelsey was also sexually abused. This is a horrible story, but unfortunately not an isolated case. Child protective/family service agencies across the country have let many children down. We need to have someone look over the shoulders of these agencies and courts to make sure cases like this do not happen in the future. My heart goes out to the whole family, but I cannot imagine what it is like to risk your life for your country and have this happen to your child, and you, while you are fighting a war for the very people responsible.