published Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Lead investigator testifies he didn't interview fathers

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free - Tonya Craft leaves the Catoosa County Courthouse Thursday evening with her husband David Craft.

RINGGOLD, Ga. -- The lead investigator in a child molestation case involving three girls testified Thursday that he never interviewed the fathers of two of the girls.

"Tell us when you interviewed (the second child's father)," defense attorney Scott King said while cross-examining Catoosa County Sheriff's Detective Tim Deal.

Detective Deal looked up from his notes and said he hadn't spoken to the man.

"(The father) was also having a hard time (with the allegations)," the detective said.

Detective Deal spent all Thursday on the witness stand in the trial of Tonya Craft, a former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher charged with 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation. The charges involve three children.

Testifying in Catoosa County Superior Court, Detective Deal said neither man was formally interviewed because both mothers indicated the men were upset over the allegations against Ms. Craft.

He also said neither of the daughters talked with their fathers about Ms. Craft.

Mr. King asked, "Oh, so (the mother) is now heading your investigation?"

"No," Detective Deal quickly responded. "I did talk with (the second father)."

"Can you point to a place in your notes where you talked with the father?" Mr. King asked.

Detective Deal admitted the conversation wasn't documented, but said he spoke to the father on the phone.

Thursday morning, prosecutors showed the jury two taped interviews that Detective Deal conducted with the second alleged victim. The detective said he interviewed the child because a forensic interviewer was not available.

In the first interview on May 27, 2008, the child didn't report any incident involving Ms. Craft touching her inappropriately. In the second, conducted the next week, the girl said Ms. Craft had molested her.

Questioned by Assistant District Attorney Len Gregor after the videos were shown, the detective said that sometimes children don't reveal sexual abuse right away.

View previous stories and videos

PDF: Craft order

Video: Tonya Craft on Nightline, June 2, 2010

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

PDF: Tonya Craft files a $25 million lawsuit against her accusers

PDF: Complaint by Eric Echols

PDF: Complaint by Sandra Lamb

PDF: Orders on Rule 22 Request for Media Coverage

Article: Craft custody attempt hits snag

Article: Pushing state to investigate

Article: Attorney questions Craigslist investigations

Article: Prosecutor introduces claim of Craft affair

Article: Witness: Mother of alleged victim made threat

Article: Craft trial entering third week

Article: Parents of child testify in Craft molestation trial

Article: Lead investigator testifies he didn't interview fathers

Article: Second forensic interviewer testifies in molestation trial

Article: Witness testimony recounted off camera

Article: Mother of alleged molestation victim testifies

Article: Second week of craft trial begins

Article: 2 more children testify in Craft trial

Article: First child testifies in molestation case

Article: Nurse who examined three alleged molestation victims testifies

Article: Juror dismissed in Craft trial

Article: Craft was framed, lawyer says

Article: Large jury pool in Craft trial, no jury selected

Article: Child molestation cases stirring emotions

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PDF: Tonya Craft’s defense attorney’s request for the judge to be dismissed from the case

Article: Attorney for Craft asks judge for recusal

Article: Molestation case leads to emotional divisions

Article: Molestation trial moved to April

PDF: Tonya Craft's indictment

"That's very common," he told the jury.

Mr. King used a transcript of the taped interview during cross-examination, reading through it with the detective and stopping to ask questions.

At one point, he asked Detective Deal about part of the interview when he asked the child if Ms. Craft had said anything to her when touching her.

According to the transcript, the child said "no." But in the next paragraph, Detective Deal asked again, "Did she say anything or just not to tell?" The child quickly responded, "She told me not to tell."

Mr. King stopped and looked at the detective and, "You just changed her answer?"

"Possibly yes," the detective said. But he said later than through his questions, he had gotten the girl to modify her answer but not to change it.

What's next

The trial continues today, with the state calling its next witness.

Mr. King pointed out what he said were several other leading or suggestive questions Detective Deal asked the child.

At one point, Detective Deal became visibly angry when Mr. King suggested the mothers could have been influencing their daughters' testimonies.

Detective Deal looked at the defense table, waved his hand in Ms. Craft's direction and said the media and Ms. Craft's "cronies" have put the girls' families through an ordeal.

"I don't know of anyone that would subject their child to this kind of garbage ... without any motive but abuse," he said.

Follow the trial on

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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enufisenuf said...

Sounds like a witch hunt form a few moms with a personal beef with Ms Craft. These mothers should have to foot the bill if not guilty is handed down. In todays soap box, guilty unless proven inonocent social mentality, any accusation of a crime against a child is handled like the Salem Witch trials and the accused party is deemed guilty unless/ untill deemed innocent.

April 23, 2010 at 4:43 a.m.
rolando said...

Monday Morning quarterbacking is seldom a good thing but it is all I have, so here goes...

First, why did a male detective interview [question] a young girl about possible sexual abuse? This is NOT how it is done; if a female interviewer is not available, the interview is postponed until one IS available. Adult males -- especially policemen -- are very strong authority figures to young girls. Too much chance of undue influence to allow that. Besides, young children will usually speak more freely to a female.

Will the Sheriff's office, et al, next begin to use men to make first interviews with adult rape victims?

Second, the detective did indeed lead the girl's answer when he suggested a possible answer she should give when he asked her a second time if anything was said [such as "not to tell"]. That, also, is not a proper way to phrase such a question...the detective is aware of that.

Further, he spoke rather revealingly when he "...waved his hand in Ms. Craft's direction and said the media and Ms. Craft's "cronies" have put the girls' families through an ordeal" and further commented, "I don't know of anyone that would subject their child to this kind of garbage ... without any motive but abuse."

Hopefully, the defense team will make note to the jury of those telling remarks.

It is admittedly hard to stay neutral during an interview of a victim of child sexual abuse. I have zero sympathy and even less tolerance for abusers -- the real ones out there. Perhaps that is why I go so far to ensure justice for the accused. I have seen too many such cases as this one appears to be. The Duke lacrosse players fiasco comes to mind.

Ms. Lukachick -- Again, thank you for your balanced reporting of a difficult subject.
I note and appreciate your [diplomatic] correction of my initial impression that Det. Deal's second interview of the girl was NOT a year but merely a week after the first.

April 23, 2010 at 9 a.m.
kbp said...


April 23, 2010 at 9:43 a.m.
hcirehttae said...

This is good coverage of a difficult subject. I hope we all can reserve judgment and wait till all the testimony is heard. This is obviously going to be a wrenching verdict either way in this case.

April 23, 2010 at 11:16 p.m.
seyville said...

rolando, I agree. I was puzzled too as to why a male was allowed to interview a young female accuser, especially one this young. I'm not at all an "expert", but this caught my concerns immediately. However, your words put it best.

My gut feelings tells me, other than this being a possible vengeful witch hunt that may have began with possibly vengeful parents, it's also a case where children may have inadvertantly listened in on parental adult conversation too much, formed their own opins., as young children will sometimes do, then interjected themselves into the picture.

Now, to save face, or reputations or even careers, it appears the accusing side is desperately reaching for anything and everything in order to obtain a convictions. Whether the accused is innocent or not no longer has any meaning for them.

April 24, 2010 at 11:15 a.m.
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