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. — Both the father and stepmother of the third child alleged to have been molested by a former schoolteacher testified Friday that they remembered new details in the days before the trial began.
The judge also agreed Friday to allow the prosecution to include testimony about Tonya Craft’s sexual history, including a same-sex encounter.
The state called the stepmother to the witness stand first in the Catoosa County Superior Court trial of Ms. 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.
When the stepmother was questioned, she said she noticed the girl was red in her private areas on several occasions and that the child woke up once, screaming that she was in pain.
But during cross-examination, defense attorney Scott King asked the witness if she had given that information to a detective.
“No,” she said. “I had not remembered it at that time.”
She testified that she remembered the detail a couple of days before the trial started on April 12 and wrote a note about it to the Catoosa County district attorney’s office.
Before the father was called to the stand, Superior Court Judge Brian House said the prosecution could include Ms. Craft’s previous sexual history.
Mr. King argued that the incidents should be excluded because the sexual encounter was with an adult and not children, citing no research linked same-sex encounters with sexual abuse.
But the prosecution argued that there was a link between the two actions.
When the father got on the stand, Catoosa County Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt first asked him about an incident involving Ms. Craft. The father testified that he became aware that Ms. Craft had been drugged one night at a bar and woke up in a female friend’s bed the next day.
In cross-examination, Mr. King asked the father why he didn’t include that information in his previous statements.
“I just remembered it,” he said.
During the prosecution’s questioning, the father also showed the jury what his daughter had demonstrated to him about how Ms. Craft had touched her. She showed him in May 2008 after he asked her if anyone had touched her, he testified.
Later, Mr. King asked the father about a conversation he had with the father of one of the other alleged victims before he questioned his daughter about Ms. Craft. At that point, Mr. King pulled out a whiteboard and a large, bound telephone record.
Mr. King proceeded to write on the board every time the father had talked with two other families involved in the allegations — the first are the parents of the alleged first victim, the second is the family of Sherry Wilson, who testified Monday that the allegations about Ms. Craft first started to come to light at Mrs. Wilson’s home in May 2008.
In front of the jury, Mr. King began to count out loud how many times the couples had talked on the phone between May 30, 2008, and February 2009.
“Over 300 calls, does that sound right?” Mr. King asked when he finished.
“There was a lot,” the father said, explaining the conversations involved questions about the well-being of the children.
For the rest of the afternoon, several Chickamauga Elementary School employees were called to the witness stand to testify.
Joni Kythas, the first alleged victim’s third-grade teacher, testified that she caught the girl masturbating in class.
When she asked the mother about the incident with her daughter, Ms. Kythas testified the mother said “she learned it from Ms. Craft.”
Joy Lukachick is a crime 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 down ...