Charges upgraded to murder in Wilson child abuse case

Sierra Rains
Shannon Michelle Smith (left) and James Daren Smith (right).

Two individuals arrested in connection with the death of a 3-year-old Wilson child are now facing first-degree murder charges. 

The child’s aunt, Shannon Michelle Smith, 29, the child’s father, James Daren Smith, 23, and the child’s uncle, Frank James Smith, 24, were each charged with one count of child abuse earlier this year

District Attorney Craig Ladd said the previous charges were filed based on the evidence available to the district attorney’s office at the time. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation continued to investigate the incident and submitted a completed report on Wednesday, Nov. 18. 

The completed medical examiner’s autopsy report stating the official cause of the victim’s death also came in on Thursday. After reviewing the reports, Ladd found enough evidence to upgrade the charges against Shannon and James Smith to first-degree murder. 

The charging documents accuse both individuals of committing murder by “using unreasonable force” or allowing the 3-year-old child to be severely injured. The documents further state that the use of force resulted in multiple blunt force trauma injuries, which in turn "caused his violent death.” 

When Wilson police responded to the Smiths’ residence on July 30, Chief of Police Kevin Coley said they were told the child had allegedly fallen out of a crib. The child reportedly had several severe injuries including a head injury, lacerations on his body and bruises from head to toe. 

Coley said the 3-year-old was unresponsive when police arrived and was rushed to Mercy Hospital Healdton. He was declared deceased shortly after. The OSBI took over the case after assisting the Wilson Police Department with the investigation. 

Three other children who had been living at the residence were removed by DHS. The amended charges carry a harsher possible punishment for Shannon and James Smith if they are found guilty. 

First-degree murder is punishable in the state of Oklahoma by death, imprisonment for life or imprisonment for life without parole. The suspects are scheduled to appear in court again on Dec. 8. 

If you believe a child is being abused or neglected, reports can be made to the Oklahoma Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-522-3511. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Individuals can also contact their local law enforcement to make a report.