RINGGOLD, Ga. -- A witness in a child molestation trial said she felt threatened by one of the alleged victim's parents to bring charges forward about her own daughter.
Kim Walker testified Monday that she received several phone calls from the mother of the first alleged victim, who told her she needed to continue questioning her own daughter about an alleged incident with former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher Tonya Craft.
Ms. Walker testified that, when she told the mother that her daughter had said Ms. Craft had not touched her and that she would not have her daughter interviewed again, the woman became angry.
"It's almost like she wanted something to happen," Ms. Walker said.
Ms. Craft, a former kindergarten teacher, is charged with 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation. The charges are against three children.
After the state rested its case early Monday afternoon in Catoosa County Superior Court, Ms. Walker spent the rest of the day on the stand as the defense's first witness.
Before Ms. Walker was called, defense attorney Scott King asked that Ms. Craft be acquitted on 16 counts -- 11 counts for insufficient evidence and five counts in which the timeframe on court documents filed by the prosecution didn't match the witnesses' testimony.
Superior Court Judge Brian House refused to acquit her, saying he believed there is sufficient evidence on all the charges.
Several parts of Ms. Walker's testimony conflicted with the testimony of two of the alleged victims' mothers and with witness Sherry Wilson. One conflicting story involved a pool party on May 23, 2008, at Mrs. Wilson's house.
The prosecution's witnesses cite the pool party as the day that led to the allegations against Ms. Craft. Mrs. Wilson testified that at the party she questioned a child about inappropriate words that the girl had written in chalk on the sidewalk.
The child told Mrs. Wilson about a child-on-child sexual incident between some of the girls when they played the "boyfriend-girlfriend game," Mrs. Wilson testified.
The mother of the first alleged victim testified that she questioned her daughter, who was present at the party, and asked if anyone had touched her. It was then that her daughter disclosed details about Ms. Craft touching her, the mother testified earlier in the trial.
On Monday, Ms. Walker testified that she received a call from the same mother several days after the pool party. The mother said she thought Ms. Craft "was crazy."
The mother then told Ms. Walker that she had questioned her own daughter for three days before she admitted that Ms. Craft had touched her, Ms. Walker testified.
Early Monday, Ms. Craft's defense also showed evidence that one of the state's social workers had social connections with the prosecutors before the trial began.
Holly Kittle, who in April 2009 interviewed the daughter of the mother who'd called Ms. Walker, was asked by defense attorney Demosthenes Lorandos about a Facebook statement made by one of the prosecutors that she had "liked" on Jan. 10.
Ms. Kittle admitted that she pushed the "like" button on Catoosa County Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt's statement, which said: "Chris Arnt is wondering if Tonya Craft's defense lawyers are really insane (or) just trying to jack up her defense bill."
Trying to explain, Ms. Kittle said she had agreed with the statement because she never had seen a case like this one.
Mr. Lorandos replied that neither had he.
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The defense will call its next witness this morning.
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 ...