CHANDLER, Okla. (AP) -- A judge on Wednesday ordered a Meeker man to stand trial for first-degree murder in the killing of his 2-year-old stepdaughter, whose death led to a law to protect children.
Special Judge Dawson Engle found probable cause to order Michael Porter, 26, to stand trial on charges of child sexual assault and first-degree murder in the Oct. 11 death of Kelsey Smith-Briggs. Engle set a Sept. 6 arraignment hearing for Porter before District Judge Paul Vassar.
Prosecutors allege the girl died after Porter hit her in the stomach.
The judge also rejected District Attorney Richard Smothermon's motion to revoke or increase Porter's bond, allowing him to remain free.
The girl's mother, Raye Dawn Smith, testified during Porter's preliminary hearing that the last time she saw the girl alive was with Porter.
Smith testified that she left Kelsey with Porter when she went to pick up Porter's child from school in Shawnee. Smith said she rolled down the window as she pulled out of the driveway and spoke to Porter.
"I said, `Take care of my baby.' He nodded his head and rolled his eyes," Smith said.
She said Kelsey was asleep when she left the house. When Smith returned home, she found emergency crews tending to Kelsey and she rode in the front seat of an ambulance that took the girl to a Prague hospital.
Porter, who was the child's stepfather, denies wrongdoing. In a motion to dismiss the charges, defense attorney, Paul Sutton, said there was no direct evidence against Porter and suggested that Smith was a more likely culprit. The motion was denied.
Smith, who has been charged with child neglect and enabling child abuse, also denies wrongdoing.
She testified that Kelsey had been playing outside with a turtle earlier in the day when she came inside and told her mother she had an accident. Smith changed Kelsey's clothes and left her wearing only a black T-shirt.
Smith recalled Kelsey telling her, "Mommy, I love you so much."
"And I said, `I love you too, Kels,' and then she went to sleep," Smith testified.
Dean Hawley, a forensic pathologist from Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis who performed a second autopsy after Kelsey's body had been exhumed, testified that there was evidence Kelsey had been a victim of forcible sexual assault.
Hawley said he was unable to find DNA evidence linking Porter to the assault, but noted that some tissues had been removed during the first autopsy.
Earlier Wednesday, a family friend who worked for Porter testified that he arrived at the home to find Porter in tears, holding Kelsey in his arms.
"The closer I got, it looked like something was wrong," said Michael Taber.
Taber said Porter had already called 911 and was still on the phone. Taber recalled Porter saying: "Oh my God, she's not breathing. What do I do?"
A Meeker fire department volunteer, John David Jenkins, also testified about failed resuscitation attempts that emergency responders performed on Kelsey.
Smith and Porter, the president of a Meeker magnet manufacturer, have divorced. They were married less than a year.
The child allegedly suffered repeated episodes of abuse. She broke a collarbone in January 2005 and fractured both shins in April 2005.
She had been removed from her mother's care in January 2005 because of the abuse concerns but was allowed overnight stays.
A judge in June 2005 returned her to her mother's care after ruling the abuser was unknown. The judge and child welfare workers were monitoring Kelsey's care when she died.
The Legislature this spring passed the Kelsey Smith-Briggs Child Protection Reform Act, which strengthens training of court-appointed child advocates and makes judges more accountable for their rulings in child-placement cases.
It also augments the ability of state agencies, including the state Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, to act on behalf of children in abusive homes.