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Category Archives: Oklahoma DHS

Kelsey Briggs’ Mother Seeks Part of Settlement



OKLAHOMA CITY — The mother of Kelsey Briggs is suing in federal court to receive proceeds from a settlement in the death of her daughter.

Raye Dawn Smith was convicted of enabling child abuse and was sentenced to 27 years in prison after Kelsey died in 2005 while in the care of Smith and the child’s stepfather Michael Lee Porter.

Porter is currently serving a 30-year sentence after pleading guilty to enabling child abuse.

Kelsey’s father, Lance Briggs, won a $625,000 settlement from the state Department of Human Services and a DHS-contractor, Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services, for failing to do enough to prevent Kelsey’s death.

Raye Dawn Smith is suing claiming she is entitled to half of the settlement. Her attorney is arguing that she was not convicted of murder and is therefore under state law just as eligible as the girl’s father to receive part of the settlement.

During a hearing Friday in federal Court in Oklahoma City, Lance Briggs pleaded to the court that the money awarded to him is his money and his alone saying Smith doesn’t deserve “one red cent.”

During the court hearing, each side was given three and a half hours to present their evidence. Officials said it will take at least a month before the judge is expected to make that decision.

Smith said if she does win the money, she wants to pay her family back for her legal costs. The rest she said she would donate to an infant crisis center and St. Jude’s Medical Research Center.


Oklahoma foster parents arrested for Felony child abuse

Truthfully, there are conflicting stories in this case of whether Garold Ray and Sherry L. McMillian, both 42, are the foster parents or adoptive parents of the 14 and 15 year-old children in this case, a call to the Owassa Police Department still left this question unanswered.

What isn’t in dispute is the treatment of these children.

New Report Scalds DHS


Accuses Agency Of Allowing Abuse

TULSA, Okla. —

A child welfare expert said five foster children in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services were scalded in bath water, sexually molested, beaten with tree switches and belts and hit in the mouth – a pattern of abuse the expert called “outrageous and immoral.”

The 121-page report  by independent consultant Peg McCartt Hess was filed Wednesday afternoon in Tulsa federal court as part of a 2008 class-action lawsuit that accuses DHS of mistreating its foster children.

For her report, Hess reviewed case files for five of the nine children named as plaintiffs in the suit against Oklahoma by Children’s Rights, a New York-based child advocacy group.

In the report, two different child welfare experts reviewed a case involving several children in DHS custody and said DHS is inadequate in responding to abuse in a home, that children in DHS care are likely at risk of physical and mental abuse, that social workers have only superficial relationships with children, and that children are at risk of being placed with abusive and neglectful caregivers.

Hess said the abuse and neglect the children suffered while in DHS custody was “wholly preventable.”

The claim is a starkly different story than George Johnson of the DHS said in an interview with Eyewitness News 5 one year ago.

“Any time anything happens to a child in foster care, there’s an immediate investigation,” he said in the November 2008 interview. “That’s the best we can do to work hard every single day.”

At the time, he also said that it wasn’t true that children in DHS care are in danger of being placed with abusive or neglectful caregivers.

“Whether they’re in foster homes or their own relatives’ care, children will die,” he said in 2008. “Accidents will happen, period.”

DHS declined to comment on the new reports until workers have had a chance to review them.

Oklahoma kids in DHS care face dangers, report finds


Group seeks reform of state system


TULSA — Treatment of children in Oklahoma’s child welfare system has been “incomprehensible, unimaginable, outrageous and immoral,” a child welfare expert stated Wednesday in a report filed in Tulsa federal court.

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Mom Charged with Torture, 29 Counts of Abuse

From the Associated Press

Prosecutors allege LaRhonda McCall, 37, and her friend, Steve Vern Hamilton, 38, beat the boy repeatedly — with “fists, bike chains, cables, extension cords, and/or boards,” leaving permanent scars. Hamilton is charged with 24 counts of child abuse.

The charges also allege McCall tortured her son in various ways, including by tying him naked to a ladder and pouring sugar water over him to attract insects. Another time, the charges allege, she poured alcohol on him and lit it on fire, burning the boy. She also allegedly forced him to stand barefoot in the snow for more than 45 minutes.

The alleged abuse was discovered after the boy escaped and ran to a National Guard base for help. All of McCall’s six children have been placed in the care of the state. Her 18-year-old daughter is considered an adult.

McCall has already was convicted and served six months in prison for manslaughter in 1996 for starving her then two-year-old daughter to death.


Oklahoma City police say pair admitted beating boy, 14

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Foster Mother’s Attorney Speaks About Branded Boy

State Records Conflict Claims of Woman Accused of Burning Child With Potato Masher




Burns on Foster Child

The 9-year-old boy sustained multiple second and third-degree burns on his arm and leg that look like this.By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

Posted: Aug 13, 2009 6:36 PM EDT

Updated: Aug 14, 2009 12:33 PM EDT

MIDWEST CITY, Oklahoma — Authorities are unclear who placed a boy in the custody of a foster mother who is accused of abusing the child with a heated potato masher.

An arrest warrant was issued for Joycelyn S. Louis after police say she burned the child with a heated potato masher several times. The foster child was diagnosed with multiple second and third-degree burns on his arm and leg.

“She would heat it up on the oven and touch it on his skin as punishment,” Midwest City police Major Sid Porter said.

Louis told her attorney, Gary Higginbotham, that she’s cared for the boy since he was an infant. Earlier this month, Higginbotham said his client has more than 30 years of experience with foster children and has cared for more than 100 children.

Records with the California Department of Social Services prove otherwise. According to the department’s spokeswoman, Louis was only licensed as a foster parent between April 2000 and March 2006 and fostered 38 children.

Louis’ attorney also said it was his understanding the child was born in California and Louis started caring for the child through the California foster system.

However, the California Department of Social Services says Louis surrendered her license to care for foster children when she moved to Oklahoma in March 2006.

During that time, Louis received one complaint from the state for not reporting a child’s injury in a timely manner. It was an injury that was not Louis’ fault, according to the state of California.

“When she left she didn’t take anybody with her,” said Lizelda Lopez, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Social Services.

Lopez says its possible Louis fostered the child here in Oklahoma, but according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, that’s not the case.

“She’s not authorized to be a foster parent here in Oklahoma”, said DHS Spokeswoman Lauri Monetti.

Higginbotham says while Louis may have only been a legal foster parent for six years, it’s still factual that she cared for kids, other than hers, for more than three decades.

“She was the go-to person for family, friends and neighbors”, said Higginbotham. “In California, she was known as ‘mama-Louis’. She has a long history of caring for her children and the children of others.”

While it’s unclear who placed the boy in Louis’ custody, police in Midwest City say he’s in protective custody now.

Higginbotham says Louis is currently receiving medical treatment at an undisclosed facility. Midwest City police say when she’s released they’ll take her into custody.

Woman accused of branding child with potato masher,0,5098466.story

MIDWEST CITY — It’s one of the worst cases of child abuse Midwest City Police say they’ve ever seen. A foster mother accused of branding a child all over his body.

Chief Brandon Clabes, Midwest City Police Department, said “You know how painful it is when you just get a minor burn. Can you imagine this poor, little 9 year old being repeatedly branded by a woman who’s supposed to be taking care of him & loving him?”

Midwest City Police say the 9-year-old boy suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns from his foster mother as a punishment.

Clabes said, “The foster mother accused him of stealing money from her. At that point she took this potato masher, heated it on the stove to where it was red hot & branded him.”

The boy told police he then went back to his bedroom, started crying and then the 72-year-old foster mother Joycelyn Louis told him “I’m not finished with you” and continued to burn him. She then allegedly told him, if anybody asks, “say you were accidentally burned.”

The foster mother refused to talk with police, but on the affidavit we see she told a DHS worker, “the child would not listen so she she heated the potato masher on the stove and pressed it lightly to his skin on his arms.”

The boy is in DHS custody. (The boy was in DHS custody when this happened too, that is what being in the care of a foster parent is…, why do they write this statement…just because they are in DHS custody…doesn’t mean that they are safe. This story more then proves that!)Police are waiting for a warrant for Louis’ arrest. We went to her house and family-owned business to talk to her, but her family said she did not want to talk to us.


Kelsey Smith-Briggs’ death lawsuit brings $625K deal


Federal judge will decide later how the state settlement money will be divided




Published: June 30, 2009

The state of Oklahoma paid $525,000 Monday to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit over the murder of Kelsey Smith-Briggs, and a private agency paid $100,000.

A federal judge Monday approved the $625,000 settlement but will decide later how to split the money.

The girl’s father filed the lawsuit and represents her estate, but her mother, who is in prison for enabling Kelsey’s abuse, wants half.

Kelsey, 2, died from abuse on Oct. 11, 2005, at her home near Meeker.

The slaying became a high-publicity case that exposed serious flaws in how the Department of Human Services protects abused children. An oversight agency found DHS made a series of mistakes in the abused child’s case, such as failing to contact police when she broke both legs. The case led to reforms.

Girl’s killer still is unknown

Who killed the girl remains a mystery. Her stepfather, Michael Lee Porter, 29, was charged with first-degree murder and child sexual abuse but pleaded guilty instead to enabling child abuse. He is serving a 30-year prison sentence. He blamed the girl’s mother for her death.

The mother, Raye Dawn Smith, 29, was never charged with murder. She was convicted at trial of enabling child abuse and is serving a 27-year prison sentence. “Kelsey was my best friend in the entire world and it hurts so bad for people to say the things they do. … I didn’t hurt Kelsey and … I didn’t sit back and let it happen,” she said after her trial.

Kelsey died even though DHS workers, a private child-welfare worker and a judge were overseeing her care because of evidence she had been repeatedly abused. Her death came four months after the judge returned Kelsey to her mother despite accusations the mother was the abuser.

Trial revealed concerns

Kelsey’s father, Lance Briggs of Shawnee, was returning to Oklahoma from military duty when she died.

He sued DHS, its director and others in 2006, alleging Kelsey died because of “systemwide failures” at DHS.

The state and the private agency, Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services, continue to deny wrongdoing despite paying the settlement, records show. Eastern Oklahoma Youth Services was under contract with DHS and a worker there had repeatedly checked on Kelsey. The worker, Jean Bonner, last visited Kelsey and her mother hours before Kelsey’s death.

At the mother’s trial, Bonner testified she had concerns about some of the problems she found during home visits but never enough to call police.

Asked by a prosecutor if she might have missed something during these visits, given that Kelsey died, Bonner said, “I don’t know.”

Lance Briggs’ attorneys will get 40 percent of the settlement plus $29,902 for expenses.

About $345,100 will remain. Judge Timothy DeGuisti said he will rule at another hearing whether the mother will get anything.

Lance Briggs’ attorneys, Joe E. White Jr. and Derek Burch, told The Oklahoman on Monday the mother should not get even “one red cent.”






 Kelsey and Lance 










































Mother arrested in connection with child abuse, Oklahoma City infant’s death

From Staff Reports

Published: June 23, 2009

Nearly two weeks after police arrested Willis Joe Lambert in connection with the death of his 6-month-old daughter, police have arrested the little girl’s mother on complaints of first-degree murder and enabling child abuse.

 Rachel Michelle Lambert died on June 9 from what the state medical examiner’s office said was whiplash/shaken baby syndrome.

The child’s mother, Latrice Russell, 33, was arrested at noon today on an arrest warrant for what police said was her role in her daughter’s death.

The mother was booked into the Oklahoma County jail and is being held without bail.

Willis Joe Lambert, 37, was released from prison 14 months ago on a previous child abuse conviction. Lambert pleaded guilty in 1999 in Oklahoma County to abusing his then-2-month-old son. He was released on earned credits from a 20-year prison term in March 2008.

The mother and father told police they had been dating for 12 years and were to be married next week.


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