RINGGOLD, Ga. — A nurse testified Thursday that two of three children alleged to be victims of child molestation by a former kindergarten teacher showed signs of abuse.
Sexual assault nurse examiner Sharon Anderson said when she took the stand in the Catoosa County Superior Court trial of Tonya Craft that two of the girls showed “suspicious” physical signs “that were consistent with sexual abuse.”
Ms. Anderson was the first expert witness in the trial of Ms. Craft, a former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher charged with 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation. Three children allegedly were involved.
Asked by one of Ms. Craft’s defense attorneys how she knew the children were sexually abused, Ms. Anderson said she did not know for certain that it was sexual abuse. But she said the report showed physical abnormalities in two of the girls and was based on specific characteristics seen during a medical examination.
“I make my decision on experience and what we consider normal,” she testified.
The jury was shown graphic photos of the girls, and Ms. Anderson gave details on what she saw that made her conclude that they had physical abnormalities. Some of the jurors appeared shocked by the photos.
While the third girl did not show signs of sexual abuse, that does not mean it didn’t happen, Ms. Anderson said. The report can’t prove or disprove the allegations, she said.
Each side spent the afternoon questioning Ms. Anderson and the doctor who signed her paperwork, S.J. Carmichael.
Dr. Carmichael told defense attorney Demosthenes Lorandos that, in general, she weighed the history of a patient’s past when making a diagnosis.
But later, asked by Mr. Lorandos if she knew about the history of diarrhea in one of the alleged victims, she said she was unaware of it.
The expert witnesses testified after the first alleged victim was cross-examined all morning.
Mr. Lorandos spent several hours showing taped interviews to that child. Each of the five interviews showed the child talking with crisis center counselors about Ms. Craft.
When Mr. Lorandos asked her why she didn’t say in the first three taped interviews that Ms. Craft had abused her, her response was short.
“I just remembered,” she said.
Throughout the girl’s questioning, Ms. Craft wiped tears from her eyes with a tissue.
Mr. Lorandos continued to start and stop each video and ask what the child was thinking at that point in the interview. Each time she responded, “I don’t know.”
In a taped interview one year after the first four interviews, the child described in graphic detail how Ms. Craft abused her. In that video, the child remained calm and collected.
When Mr. Lorandos asked her if she had been upset talking about the abuse, she said “no.”
Also in an early video, the child told a social worker that she knew about the two other children who allegedly were molested by Ms. Craft. But in the last taped interview, when asked how she knew about the other girls, the child said, “My mommy told me.”
When Mr. Lorandos questioned her about that response, she agreed with her earlier answer.
After the child was dismissed from the courtroom, members of the public were allowed back in the room.
Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...