June 2007

Demanding Accountability

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Oklahoma Prosecutor Smothermon Pushes
False Charges?
The Murder and Exploitation of Kelsey Smith-Briggs

Kelsey Smith-Briggs, a child whose “purpose” was taken.

By Barry Jon
Investigative Reporter

Lincoln County, Oklahoma - There is no more horrible, there is no more irreparable story than that of Kelsey Smith Briggs. The unnecessary death of a child pains and shocks communities to the core and its effects ripple into lives distant and unconnected. We hold our own children more closely and we demand answers.

Kelsey’s memory is entitled to have the real picture of her story exposed: a picture of deceit, and a picture of converging storms from which DHS and her mother could not protect her. A tremendous amount of time and effort has been put into our research and interviews; documents have been poured over and countless people have shared their knowledge to piece together the true story of the life and death of Kelsey. The lack of evidence to support the loudly publicized rendition of Kelsey’s abuse is as compelling as the evidence of what actually happened.

What stood out as our investigation progressed was how the system has been manipulated through deception and frequently told, outright lies. In the end, the amount of information compiled could easily fill another Grisham novel set in small town Oklahoma. A battle forged in Lincoln County became drawn unnecessarily along family lines. Every branch of state government, several agencies and countless people far from the town of Meeker have been directly affected by this saga, even if only on an emotional level. Yet the main characters around which this sad story revolves can be distilled down to six people: Kelsey herself, Kathie Briggs (the grandmother), Michael Porter (step-father), Lance Briggs (biological father), Raye Dawn Smith (mother) and District Attorney Richard Smothermon.

Our biggest problem in writing this article wasn’t finding people willing to talk, and it wasn’t gathering verifiable documentation or information contained in records; it was how to tell the story as concisely as possible. This tangled story is entirely about Kelsey, but we determined the best way to tell it would be to untangle it one person at a time.

- Lance Briggs -

A father should never have to bury his child. It chills the bones to even conceive of such a painful ordeal. In the process of unraveling Kelsey’s story we cannot forget the hurt surely felt by people in her life. Yet, in the unraveling we cannot fully understand Kelsey’s ordeal without uncovering the world into which she was born. That world, whether he wanted it to or not, very much included her father, Lance Briggs.

Research has shown that an intact and happy home is by far the best scenario for children. Why then did Kelsey’s mother, Raye Dawn, divorce Lance in the first place? Wouldn’t Kelsey seeing her mother and father together have been best? It was a long record of physical and mental abuse that preceded Raye Dawn’s escape. Make no mistake; Lance Briggs is a vicious physical abuser with a long laundry list of offenses. Lance reportedly, violently punched the pregnant abdomen of Kelsey’s mother causing a miscarriage in the summer of 2000. Police were called repeatedly during the marriage for assaults on Kelsey’s mother and advised her more than once to get a protective order. Lance pled to assault charges and was court ordered twice to attend anger management classes for his assaults on Kelsey’s mother and later girlfriend Marie Larsen. The final blow according to police records came in May, 2002 when Lance threw Kelsey’s mother against the wall and choked her with his arm for not “super-sizing his McDonald’s Value Meal.” What a hero! The injuries to her collar bone and neck were observed and photographed by police. When Kelsey’s mother, Raye Dawn, filed for divorce her pregnancy with Kelsey was so early on she was unaware of it. According to witnesses, Lance repeatedly, and against a temporary relief order, broke into her house and destroyed and stole personal items of hers only to leave them to be found in a nearby field and creek. On one occasion his mother even returned items that had gone missing when Lance claimed to have had no involvement. Yet he kept leaving notes asking her to take him back or threatening, “You want to play games? You decide!”

Lance Briggs sweats as
truth comes out.

Lance’s second marriage to Ashley Gober was so terrible that the divorce was finalized only one month after the death of Kelsey. However, Lance doesn’t confine this physical and mental abuse to his wife. Lance was arrested just last year for assaulting two women when he broke into a former girlfriend’s house and dragged her by her hair into the front yard and now yet another protective order is in place. Police records reportedly show he even had a loaded gun with him. How many charges and how many protective orders have to be filed before a pattern of violence is established and properly dealt with?

When Kelsey’s mother, Raye Dawn, discovered her pregnancy she attempted to shield this child from the chaos of the Briggs family. In the end it was Kathie Briggs, not the father, who pushed for paternity testing. Originally, Lance didn’t want anything more than standard visitation. He didn’t push for custody; he didn’t show up for hearings and he even reportedly told people that he hoped the baby wasn’t his so he could move on with his life. These are not the actions of a loving father and certainly not the wonderful man he’s been portrayed as. Lance even admittedly lied to authorities regarding his military movements to avoid suspicion.

Upon Kelsey’s death, authorities attempted to contact Lance with the terrible news of his daughter’s death, but were unable to locate him. We hear over and again of how Lance discovered the news of Kelsey’s death right after getting off the plane from Iraq. Horrific news, but Lance and his mother Kathie appear to have been lying regarding his location and status as an American soldier. Lance wasn’t fresh from Iraq, but rather sources inform us he had been testing positive for drugs and was spending time in a military drug rehab center at Fort Benning, Georgia. Sources go on to tell that he was being threatened with a dishonorable discharge if he did not voluntarily leave due to possible military drug charges and physically assaulting a superior officer in Germany. Briggs claims to have received an honorable discharge but according to an Observer source he was discharged for being “no longer fit for military service.” Lance was initially scheduled to be back well before Kelsey’s fatal day with Michael Porter, but was fighting his own demons and not for our freedom. We encourage Lance Briggs to release his un-edited DD214 and his full military records to disprove our military sources – a small task for the hero his mother claims.

Not only should we be angry that the disgraced military service of Lance Briggs is being hoisted to war hero status, but we should be livid that it is being done on the memory of a slain little girl. This illustrates the level to which the Briggs have dropped in their attempt to use anything to pull at the public’s heartstrings to fulfill their agenda – an agenda of vengeance towards Kelsey’s mother, Raye Dawn Smith, for divorcing and filing charges against an abusive man. This is a man who couldn’t even protect his own marriages from himself.

- Kathie Briggs -
Lies, Lies and Video Tapes

All too often when marriages fall apart the love and the feelings of extended family are shut out of the debate. The blessings of grandchildren are ripped from the nurturing wisdom of grandparents and these relationships are left empty and broken. But in contrast there can also be the meddlesome mother-in-law that has reached mythic proportions in every culture on the globe. Kathie Briggs wants you to focus on the dejected grandparent concept and prays her exploits as the meddlesome in-law (that appears to have been taken to criminal proportions) will go unnoticed. Three things tell us about the nature of a person: past record, actions and motives. We are directly questioning her record, her actions and her motives regarding her persecution of the mother of Kelsey, Raye Dawn Smith.

Even though Briggs publicly questioned why anyone would “take the time to verify” details of the case, we decided to do just that and began to compare what was being said with what our investigation uncovered.

“Take these kids or I will kill every one of them!”
- Kathie Briggs

Kathie Briggs claims she was the one who sought out DHS for help with her own children when they were young. She argues, “This decision was my own and not court ordered.” This is correct. In fact, according to witnesses she drove down to the Pottawatomie County courthouse with her four young children and exclaimed, “Take these kids or I will kill every one of them!” DHS records and a sworn and signed affidavit attest to this. She is exactly right; it was her decision to abandon her own children, but once she threatened their lives in front of DHS workers it was no longer her choice.

Kathie Briggs spent two years (uncommonly long) working her DHS plan to get her children back. She was frequently given gas money and even driven by health department worker, Norma Hansen, just so she would visit her own children. Briggs also claims that the judge in charge of her case praised her as a shining example when in reality Judge Carter never did so. This is her past record with DHS; this is her record with her own children, and this is how she revises truth.

Kathie has become the queen of revisionist history. She likewise affirms, “I am very proud of the children I raised and the adults they have become.” So you’re proud of a son who pleads no contest to assault charges on more than one occasion with more than one woman, who attends “court ordered” anger management twice, who reportedly gets beaten up for groping a woman in a bar, who admits to lying to authorities regarding his whereabouts, who doesn’t show up for custody hearings, who gets relieved of military service for drugs and assault?

Kathie Briggs sued for the same visitation rights with Kelsey that she was already freely receiving without court intervention – any other statement is a verifiable lie. Kathie Briggs stalked Raye Dawn, following her to work, to her school and to her house long before she ever claimed Kelsey had any signs of abuse. In fact, in the report to the District Attorney when DHS was first called to investigate, Kathie Briggs stated “she had not seen bruising on Kelsey on any occasion prior.” Yet, she would now have us believe that a nurturing mother of two years with no history of abuse or violence suddenly turns on her daughter. When DHS was called in after Kelsey broke her collar bone (the most common bone broken in children) Kathie Briggs called the Meeker Police and stepped up her stalking and harassment. Sources at DHS have stated that their offices received so many calls from Kathie that proved blatantly untrue they began to disregard them. Some of the calls reported abuse during times that Kathie didn’t even know a DHS worker was present. And these calls haven’t ended with the death of Kelsey but have continued, only now stating abuse of Raye Dawn’s son, whom she has never seen outside of DHS supervised visits due to the malicious prosecution by District Attorney Richard Smothermon.

Kathie would also call in erroneous police reports as well. On one particular occasion police stated they received a call from Kathie Briggs claiming that Raye Dawn was driving erratically and at excessive speeds. Kathie didn’t realize an officer was on that exact road and he saw nothing to substantiate Kathie’s claim. Kathie even alleged that Raye Dawn had the wrong license plate on her vehicle having switched it with another, which was likewise proved false. Moreover, in the official police report of the incident the officer stated, “I believe that Briggs is continually following and stalking [Raye Dawn] in attempts to gain any information possible to use against [her] in the custody battle for the child. The information known by Briggs demonstrates knowledge gained through harassing/ stalking activities.”

Kathie lists three main points in her abuse claims regarding Kelsey’s mother, Raye Dawn: broken color bone, two broken legs and bruises from head to toe (the mother is not suspected in the abdominal injury resulting in Kelsey’s death). Let us examine those three points from the position of evidence and not innuendo.

The mother took Kelsey to the emergency room when she complained of pain and was unable to use her arm freely. The broken collar bone and bruises were attended to and she was released from the hospital with no suspicion of abuse. The Briggs family, who were locked in a heated custody battle, returned her to the same ER and the same doctor four days later and complained of abuse. The doctor documented all bruises and the collar bone and referred it to the Meeker police to investigate. When questioned at the preliminary hearing if he thought abuse had occurred that same doctor stated it was “not my job to determine what happened. That’s for the police.” He was required by law to contact authorities simply because the Briggs used the word abuse. Both the police and DHS investigated the incident and cleared Kelsey’s mother of all suspicion, having determined the break to be nothing more than a childhood accident.

Even more compelling is the evidence surrounding Kelsey’s two broken legs. Evidence and DHS timelines substantiated by Kathie show that Kelsey was delivered to Kathie Briggs with a doctor x-rayed and diagnosed sprained ankle, but very much walking. Kathie herself states Kelsey “took three steps and fell down, then didn’t walk the rest of the week” but sources tell us that Kathie took her to gymnastics classes several times during her stay. If Kelsey “stopped walking” why did Kathie take her to gymnastics, refuse to take Kelsey to the doctor and just give her back to her mother? Worried, the mother (not Briggs) reported this to DHS and took Kelsey to the ER where her legs were discovered fractured. The doctor diagnosed their cause as “complications from the sprain due to overcompensation” and cast both legs. Back in Kathie’s custody Kelsey was taken under false pretenses to another doctor where Kathie had Kelsey’s casts removed seeking a different diagnosis - what did Kathie know that the mother didn’t? Then Briggs returned Kelsey to her mother without casts. The maternal grandmother then took Kelsey immediately back to the doctor to have the casts put back on so her legs would heal properly, and the doctor who removed the casts is part of the DHS investigation. At this point DHS began to suspect Kathie Briggs, or at the least someone in her house, but realized there was almost no way to prove it. This is why DHS specifically removed Kelsey from Kathie Briggs’ guardianship to place her in foster care. Very important to note is that three doctors directly disagree with one another on the fractures. Dr. Barrett and Dr. Koons examined Kelsey and determined their cause was over-compensation due to the sprained ankle but the doctor that Kathie sought out, Dr. Sullivan disagreed. However, because one doctor said there was a possibility of abuse DHS was required to act. Kathie once again was using anything possible against Kelsey’s mother but this time it backfired because timelines show Kelsey was with Kathie when the fractures occurred and not with her mother.

As for the bruises from head to toe, the pictures that Kathie Briggs has amassed are a showcase of every scrap and scratch, every bump and fall that a two year old can do over an 8-month time span and culminate with the results of an auto accident. The photographs that Briggs has plastered anywhere she can find a flat surface are from what she even called “a very active child.” Even the blood vessel burst in her eye was a direct result of the auto accident.

During the next several weeks all of Kathie Briggs’ and the mother’s visits were monitored at a DHS facility. Here is yet another red flag; during all of these monitored visits with Kathie Briggs, Kelsey was documented to have continually hidden from Kathie, thrown things at her, run away from her, yelled at her and tried to bite her, until finally on July 6, 2005 Kathie Briggs without warning simply did not show up for her scheduled visit with Kelsey. When questioned, Ashley (Lance Briggs’ former wife) stated Kathie “would not come to the office because DHS told in court what a bad person she was and she did not want anybody to state any more bad things.”

Interestingly, DHS workers continually tried to gain contact information for Lance Briggs from Kathie, but she kept avoiding the request stating that he was moving around so much in the military this wasn’t possible; however, during many of the supervised visits at DHS Kathie would receive phone calls from Lance. Somehow he was able to coincide calls during visits but could not keep in contact with DHS. In fact Kathie spent so much time on the phone talking to various people during several visits with Kelsey that records show observers finally had to reprimand her for it.

So let us cast our eyes on the documented visits with Raye Dawn, the mother. Kelsey played games with her, laughed, snuggled next to her to watch movies and was notably happy with her visits that ended in “hugs and kisses.” What did Kelsey know that we didn’t? Kelsey’s actions were not erratic during these visits; they were consistent with both her mother and with Kathie Briggs. We have heard the proverb that children are good judges of character and this child spoke volumes.
Kathie Briggs even purposely lies about her access to Kelsey after she was given back to her mother in July of 2005. Kathie claims that the court blocked the Briggs family from seeing Kelsey, yet our investigation revealed that this is an outright lie. For being as vigilant as she claims, how could she overlook her access for three months before Kelsey’s death? In reality, NO ONE from the paternal family showed up to a public hearing to discuss restricting overnight stays outside of the mother’s home because doctors were concerned about what might have been seizures that began to manifest. But Kathie knows she had access. It is in the court documents and she even exercised this once after an auto accident where Kelsey was in the car.

What Kathie doesn’t want the public or her supporters to know is that the DHS record does not show a pattern of abuse by the mother because that abuse was never there; it shows a pattern of her own deceit and manipulation of the system which she learned with her own children. We already know, according to Kathie’s testimony and others’ to DHS, that Kelsey was not being abused before DHS involvement. Judge Craig Key and DHS workers poured over the records for countless hours before Kelsey was finally returned to her mother in July 2005. Yet now the DHS worker is being ridiculed by Briggs out of one side of her mouth while telling reporters that her testimony at the preliminary hearing was, “the most compelling.” You cannot have it both ways.

Briggs’ front Kelsey’s Purpose reportedly
slapped with “cease and desist” order
by Attorney General for “misuse of funds.”

Now, here is the real kicker; Kathie and Lance Briggs have filed a $15 million lawsuit against DHS for allowing the abuse and death of Kelsey. If they win, they will have to give half of the settlement to the mother, Raye Dawn. However, if Raye Dawn is convicted of anything regarding the abuse/ death of Kelsey then Kathie and Lance Briggs get to keep it all. You don’t think $7.5 million dollars isn’t a motive? The squeaky wheel gets the oil, or in this case the cash. Briggs’ embellishments and outright lies are out of revenge and she now seeks to destroy the life of a grieving mother while lining her own pockets. Even her attempt at a non-profit has been sent a “cease and desist” order from the Attorney General for “misuse of funds.” A fact she has tried to hide from supporters, but is finding several in her ranks are discovering this for themselves. Call and ask her how her son Lance continues to purchase more and more possessions while remaining unemployed.

Beware a mother scorned. That’s what stands out. Even in the father’s seeming lack of interest Kathie sought and seeks anything she can set her hands on to destroy Raye Dawn’s life -attempting to gain any information possible and revising history to use against her. The police even saw this. These actions had nothing to do with the well being of a child. It had to do with the selfish nature of an individual who was so angry for having been seen through that she came out spitting venom. Of course we’re sure she’ll simply say the evidence is lying.

- Michael Porter -
Porter is serving a 30-year sentence

Michael Porter swept in as a confidence artist in shining armor. He was college educated (so he said), brilliant in his business dealings (miserably false) and had his own home (in foreclosure). Kathie Briggs has admonished Kelsey’s mother for not verifying all of this, yet she herself publicly denounced one of her own “would be” supporters for attempting to do the same thing regarding her.

Sadly, it wasn’t until after Kelsey’s death that Porter’s house of cards came crashing down. Even before Kelsey’s mother knew of the suspicions surrounding Kelsey’s death she called for an autopsy because she “wanted to know what her daughter died from.” Yet, Porter immediately questioned the need. Porter faked heart attack symptoms not once, but twice as the events following Kelsey’s death unfolded. He raved to DHS and investigators in a letter on what a wonderful mother Raye Dawn was, but plea-bargained to “allowing abuse” as if someone was left unpunished. Even after his arrest Porter was quite comfortable having Raye Dawn and her mother watch over his own children. Yet, sources tell us that District Attorney Smothermon may be calling him to the stand as a “credible” state witness stemming from his plea agreement.

It’s been reported to us that Porter’s own daughter shared with a school guidance counselor that her father told her “not to talk about what goes on at home” and that he would act loving towards Kelsey when her mother was around but would hit Kelsey when Raye Dawn was gone. She watched as her father hit Kelsey’s head against a brick wall when her mother was gone. One of Kelsey’s young cousins once witnessed him take Kelsey into a room and close the door and when they came out Kelsey was crying. This monster closely guarded his abusing secret like he did so many other lies.

Kathie Briggs spent so much effort getting DHS, CASA, and the judge to chase Kelsey’s mother that sadly the gathering darkness of a real killer slipped in almost unnoticed.

When police in our nation’s capital focused on tips that a shooter was using a white mini-van to randomly execute innocent people, the real killers went unnoticed until police changed their focus. Scott Peterson had family and friends so sure of the great man he was, all the while hiding a financial downfall that ended with him killing his own wife and unborn child. Even Ted Bundy, one of America’s most notorious serial killers, was able to keep his family in the dark, yet Smothermon wants us to believe that trained DHS and CASA workers could overlook Porter but Kelsey’s mother, Raye Dawn, “should have known.” Raye Dawn was forced to focus on protecting her life and daughter from the manipulations of Kathie and Lance Briggs.

DA Smothermon
- The Prosecutors -
Reason takes a holiday

The name “Mike Nifong” has quickly become synonymous with the zealous prosecution of the innocent bordering on the criminal. The fact is politics and ladder climbing can play a powerful role in the justice system, and if left unchecked can wallow in our own backyard. District Attorney Richard Smothermon wants to be Attorney General even if it takes the sensational prosecution of an innocent person.

Do you not find it fascinating that Michael Porter, Raye Dawn Smith and DHS are all being accused of “allowing abuse” but no one seems to have actually committed anything according to District Attorney Smothermon?

Smothermon is now prosecuting Kelsey’s mother, Raye Dawn, at the political behest of Kelsey’s paternal grandmother, Kathie Briggs. Smothermon even apparently told several witnesses that Kelsey’s mother had nothing to do with harming Kelsey. The evidence doesn’t warrant charges, but the Kathie Briggs Machine has forced his hand, and he cannot ignore it without suffering politically.

What is truly sad is that Kathie Briggs has amassed a small army of very good people around a swirling story of innuendo, half-truths, omission and even outright lies. Because Briggs’ supposed “non-profit” calls for the reduction of child abuse by imprisoning Kelsey’s mother, Kathie is attempting to see to it that an untainted and fair trial is all but impossible. Seeing such a weak case but no way out, Smothermon, rather than directly attaching his own name to a no win case, has hired a vindictive and reportedly dishonest private practice attorney to prosecute. When is the last time you have heard of a DA bringing in a hired gun and turning down the chance to directly prosecute the highest profile case in his district? A case with both statewide and national recognition. A case that could have his name and face on front pages and TV screens giving free publicity to his Attorney General aspirations. Even though he desperately wants the free camera time showing him prosecuting a child abuser, he distances himself from the media. The reason is because he wants to be at least arms length when that ship sinks. The special prosecutor, Patricia High, even saw how weak the case was and the first thing she did was attempt to stack charges in the hopes that something, anything would stick. Prosecutors know that often a jury will see several charges and believe that where there is smoke there is fire and convict on at least one charge.

DA Smothermon and Patricia High now push the laughable charge that Kelsey’s mother was abusing her long before DHS was ever involved based on a photograph given to them by the mother herself. However, the Briggs family and Kathy Briggs have given sworn statements to both DHS and police that they never saw anything questionable before January 2005. The fact that Kathie Briggs doesn’t stand up and let her own statement be heard is further evidence that the prosecution of Raye Dawn isn’t about justice.

Most importantly, the DA has to prove intent or at the very least neglect. Notice that the DA has dropped the charge of neglect. Smothermon knows that after all the DHS documentation he would not be able to prove neglect, so he amended the charges to Abuse and Allowing Abuse. However, the DHS record doesn’t point to the mother as either abusing or allowing abuse. The DHS record does the exact opposite. It attests to the care, love and cherished relationship this mother and daughter shared. It shows how she jumped through every hoop to do what she thought was best for her daughter.

Thousands of dollars are being wasted on a case that has no business being pursued (outside of politics). District Attorney Smothermon has continued to offer plea agreements to Kelsey’s mother in the hopes this case will go away as quietly as possible, but Raye Dawn has completely refused anything other than her innocence. Why would Kelsey’s mother turn down an offer of only 5 years in prison to risk 30 years or more from a court? Her unflinching statement of innocence and Smothermon’s waffling tell the story.

- Raye Dawn Smith -
The Mother

When Kelsey’s mother, Raye Dawn was aggressively being questioned by investigators regarding her daughter’s suspicious death she shared with the investigators that her father told her as long as she told the truth everything would turn out alright. They told her, “Not this time.”

We cannot simply try people on the basis of “guilt by association.” Raye Dawn may have brought Michael Porter into her life, but she also brought Lance Briggs into it as well. The fact that Porter turned out to be a more intelligent liar and a more secretive abuser than Lance does not make Raye Dawn an abuser or an enabler. Remember, two county DHS offices and CASA “should have known.” They were trained and they had unrestricted access. Kelsey’s mother, Raye Dawn, divorced Lance Briggs because she refused to allow herself to be abused. This fact, a stack of DHS documentation, sources inside DHS and the courts as well as members of her own community tell us that this mother would never have knowingly allowed her precious daughter to be abused, let alone be the abuser.

There is no evidence in the DHS record that points a finger at Raye Dawn that does not also point at Kathie Briggs. Let me repeat that – there is NO EVIDENCE pointing to Raye Dawn as having committed any abuse. The record and sources in DHS point to Kathie Briggs making so many fabricated reports of abuse surrounding childhood scrapes that they told her to stop calling simply to build a custody case.

Kathie Briggs stalked Raye Dawn for two years and never reported to a single soul that she even thought the mother was abusing her child. Kathie Briggs’ own testimony and that of other members of her family to both DHS and law enforcement stated that they had never seen bruising on Kelsey before January 2005. But in the heat of a custody battle that was not going her way she whipped her family into a frenzy and called DHS over a broken collarbone (did we mention that this is the most frequently broken bone in children). Doctor’s investigated, DHS investigated and law enforcement investigated and not one of them found any reason to believe abuse was involved. Why? Because there was no abuse! But now the Briggs would have us believe that a loving, caring, nurturing mother would, after two years suddenly start abusing her child. There is NO history; there is NO motive. The DHS records show that from the time Kelsey was returned to her mother until Michael Porter killed her there was not one report of abuse, and

DHS, having free reign, was able to drop in completely unannounced. This absence of false abuse reports to DHS directly coincides with Kathie Briggs no longer pursuing visitation with Kelsey.

Imagine if you will, escaping from a violently abusive man, and discovering that you now have a precious child growing inside of you. Would you readily share that with a monster? Would you readily share that with a man who allegedly caused your miscarriage by punching your pregnant abdomen? The Briggs (Kathie and Lance) have so maliciously sought to scar the life of a loving mother who only wanted refuge for her and her daughter. Kathie Briggs now does so for fame and fortune.

When we are too lazy to search for the truth and simply call for the hanging of all in the vicinity it is painfully evident that we have no, or cannot conceive of, empathy. Lashing out with hatred and anger does not produce justice, it is simply blind vengeance. And just because we cannot imagine abuse and murder occurring, hidden from all but the victim and a sole perpetrator does not mean it didn’t happen. The writers of CSI and Law & Order have conceived of far greater twists.

- Kelsey Smith-Briggs -

Truly, the most important element to the Kelsey Smith-Briggs story is Kelsey herself. At the heart, the very core of this saga are the collected memories of youth and the bundled essence of a child - a child who was not born to simply be on a bumper sticker or plastered across a billboard. A child whose "purpose" was to giggle and climb monkey bars, to run through summer afternoons with dreams streaming in her hair. This child's inheritance was not a "purpose" to die.

One thing that cannot be forgotten and should not be eliminated is the fact that the “purpose” of a precious 2 year and 9 month old child was taken, not fulfilled. The murderer, Michael Porter, did not give Kelsey a purpose; he took her purpose from her. The grandmother, Kathie Briggs, does not give Kelsey’s life a purpose; she uses it. The mother, Raye Dawn Smith, did not obstruct Kelsey's purpose; she sought it and now mourns it.

If we are religious, we remember only one child was born so that others would be saved. If we live outside of faith, we remember the focus of our founding fathers & mothers and their assertion of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If we believe in the rule of law, we remember that guilt and innocence are proved by evidence, not innuendo or motives for financial or political gain. If we believe in the memory of Kelsey, we remember her purpose to prosper, and not a purpose to die.

In short, a precious child was used as a pawn by her vindictive grandmother and physically violent father to deal out revenge on an ex-wife for filing divorce and assault charges. They then had Kelsey’s mother, DHS, CASA and the courts so chasing their tails that a killer slipped in under the radar. Witnesses may lie, but the evidence doesn’t. Every turn we made and every person we contacted drove us to this destination, including the Briggs themselves.

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