published Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Second forensic interviewer testifies in molestation trial

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With red marker in hand and a whiteboard in front of him, a defense attorney in the child molestation case against a kindergarten teacher asks his witness: "Could that be a suggestion?"

"I don't think so," answers Stacy Long, her voice shaky, her eyes darting to the prosecution table.

When he is finished, attorney Demosthenes Lorandos has made 12 marks on the board, one for each time Ms. Long, a specialist who interviewed an alleged victim, had asked the girl: "Is there anything else?"

Ms. Long was testifying Wednesday in the case against Tonya Craft, a former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher who is charged with 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation. The charges involve three children.

With a transcript of Ms. Long's interview with the girl in hand, Mr. Lorandos, who also is a child psychologist, spent more than an hour pointing out each question Ms. Long had asked the child -- including ones such as "Were you afraid of Ms. Tonya?" -- then asking whether Ms. Long suggested that idea or the child did.

For most of the cross-examination, Ms. Long said she came up with the questions that she asked the child. But in several cases, she explained that a particular question was standard when interviewing a child who may be the victim of sexual abuse.

When the state first called Ms. Long to the stand on Wednesday, the jury was shown two taped interviews she had conducted with the first child in the case. In the videos, Ms. Long, who worked for the Children's Advocacy Center at the time, sits at a round table and talks with the child while the girl colors a picture. Ms. Long calmly asks questions, then writes down the answers when the girl responds.

In the videos, the child tells Ms. Long that another child had been touching her inappropriately, and she says that Ms. Craft never fed her when she visited the teacher's home.

But in the second taped interview, made the same day, the child tells Ms. Long that she had forgotten to tell her something.

Ms. Craft "told me to touch her back," the child said.

On Tuesday, Suzie Thorne, a former forensic interviewer at the GreenHouse Children's Advocacy Center in Dalton, Ga., testified that the girl had been even more explicit in another taped interview conducted about month after Ms. Long's.

But Ms. Thorne acknowledged that the girl's detailed statements about what she said had happened between her and Ms. Craft were not on videotape, nor had Ms. Thorne written the statements down.

In an apparent effort to bolster Ms. Thorne's testimony, the prosecution called Catoosa County Sheriff's Office Detective Tim Deal, the lead investigator on the case, to the stand Wednesday. The detective testified that he was in the room with Ms. Thorne when the child made her detailed statement.


Catoosa County Sheriff's Office Detective Tim Deal, the lead investigator on the case, will take the stand again. The state will finish interviewing him before the defense cross-examines him.

Prompted by Catoosa County Assistant District Attorney Len Gregor, the detective read part of his report of the incident, telling the jury he had written down the child's statement.

Mr. Gregor asked Detective Deal if he thought the defense attorneys were lying Tuesday when they said they hadn't received a copy of the detective's report.

"I don't know," Detective Deal said. "I would like to hope they were making a mistake."

Follow the trial at .

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...

"...the girl had been even more explicit in another taped interview conducted about month after Ms. Long's"

Answers another question I had!

That "month" is a long time in a situation if the accusations were true.

Thanks for the report!

April 22, 2010 at 9:40 a.m.
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