published Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Mother of alleged molestation victim testifies

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Video: Tonya Craft on Nightline, June 2, 2010

Video: Tonya Craft interview with Good Morning America, June 2, 2010

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PDF: Tonya Craft's indictment

With crossed arms and pursed lips, the mother of an alleged child molestation victim scowled at one of the defense attorneys during her cross-examination.

"Tonya and I weren't talking anymore. (But) I wasn't holding a grudge, I'm not that type of person," the woman told one of the attorneys for former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher Tonya Craft.

Ms. Craft, a former kindergarten teacher, is charged with 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation. The charges involve three children.

After being questioned for several hours on Monday, the mother of the alleged victim, now a 9-year-old girl, said she and Ms. Craft had a falling out before the molestation allegations were made in 2008.

The mother, whose name is not being disclosed to protect the identity of the alleged victim, testified that her daughter was in Ms. Craft's class in the 2005-2006 school year.

She said her daughter told her in May 2008 that Ms. Craft had touched her inappropriately in the bathtub and in the kitchen when she visited the teacher's home.

The mother testified that she asked her daughter about Ms. Craft only because her daughter was talking about another girl in a questionable situation and she could tell that her daughter had something more to say.

In a courtroom full of spectators, the witness said, "I was in total shock. I would have never thought that my daughter would say that to me."

Defense attorney Scott King kept a steady tone throughout his cross-examination. At one point, he focused on an incident in which her child had become upset during a birthday party at Ms. Craft's home.

When the daughter wanted to leave the party early, Ms. Craft told the girl that she was being mean and that she wouldn't give her a ride back to her house, the witness testified.

  • photo
    Staff photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press - The Catoosa County Courthouse in Ringgold is the scene of the trial of Tonya Craft.

When Mr. King asked if her daughter had told her about Ms. Craft touching her after that incident, she responded, "She told me then, 'She hated Tonya.'"

After that incident in January 2008, the daughter stopped going to Ms. Craft's house, and the mother said she stopped talking to Ms. Craft.

"You didn't want to know the adult version (of the story)?" Mr. King asked.

She said no, explaining that she already had observed characteristics in Ms. Craft that she didn't like. Before that incident, she and Ms. Craft had been friends, she testified.

Mr. King showed the witness several photos of her daughter with Ms. Craft, smiling at Ms. Craft's wedding. Asked if her daughter appeared nervous or upset around Ms. Craft, the witness became angry and said, "She's smiling for a picture."

Mr. King then suggested that the child didn't show any signs of anger toward Ms. Craft until after the alleged 2008 incident at the birthday party.

The witness said that was true.

Both the mother and the first witness, Sherry Wilson, said the molestation allegations didn't come out until May 2008.

At that point in the cross-examination, she closed her eyes and took a long time to respond.

"In May 2008, that was the first time I noticed a deep hurt inside her," she said.

WHAT'S NEXT

The state will resume calling its witnesses Tuesday morning.

Follow the Craft trial at twitter.com/timesfreepress

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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kbp said...

Thanks for sharing your report. :)

April 20, 2010 at 1:01 a.m.
harrystatel said...

I hope that law enforcement officers made video tapes of all the interviews with the kids, from the first interview to the last, not just videos made for testimony purposes.

If LE didn't, that's a very questionable and poor practice and leaves room for reasonable doubt in this particular case.

Were tapes made? Not only of LE but of interviews with social workers, child advocates and children's services? If yes, the tapes were made, then the prosecutor should make it known and let the jurors see it.

But if not, if no tapes of the critical initial interviews were made,the prosecution will have a hard time convincing jurors that the children were not coached, cajoled, bribed, and convinced by authority figures to say whatever the authority figure wants said.

There had better be some strong and indefensible evidence presented by the prosecution that leaves no room for reasonable doubt. I wait to see if they've got any aces under their sleeves.

April 20, 2010 at 5:41 p.m.
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