published Friday, April 30th, 2010

Witnesses dispute previous testimony

An 8-year-old girl testified that she was at a house when one of the alleged child molestation incidents involving Tonya Craft was said to have occurred and she didn't see anything happen.

The girl, who was close friends with one of the alleged victims, testified Thursday that Ms. Craft never touched her inappropriately and that she didn't see anything happen at a January 2008 slumber party at Ms. Craft's home.

Ms. Craft, a former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher, is charged with 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation. The charges involve three girls.

When the girls involved in the case testified during the first week of trial, two said Ms. Craft had fondled them at the same party. One girl even mentioned the 8-year-old who testified Thursday, saying Ms. Craft had touched her and then the 8-year-old had cried herself to sleep that night.

When defense attorney Demosthenes Lorandos questioned the child if she had cried all night, she quickly responded "no."

The prosecution asked that the girl be excused without any cross-examination.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press Tonya Craft leaves the Catoosa County Courthouse..

On Thursday, the defense called 10 people, including three children, to the stand.

During their cross-examinations of the defense witnesses, Assistant District Attorney Len Gregor and Chris Arnt continued to bring up alleged adult incidents involving Ms. Craft.

The prosecution also asked several witnesses about the website www.truthfortonya.com, which insists that Ms. Craft is innocent, and if they believed claims on the site about a conspiracy theory that the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit simply is out to get Ms. Craft, regardless of the facts.

The defense objected to the line of questioning, but Superior Court Judge Brian House allowed the questions, saying, "they're on cross."

The courtroom filled early, as the trial continues to gain national media attention. NBC's "The Today Show" aired a segment on the trial Thursday morning, while other networks also are looking into the case.

In the early afternoon, Rhonda Lawson, a social worker from Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services, testified that the first alleged victim's mother called her on May 19, 2008, to report that her daughter had told her that Ms. Craft had touched her.

On the stand, Ms. Lawson read through her report, explaining that, after the child started having nightmares, the mother asked her, "Did anything ever happen to you when you were at Ms. Tonya's?"

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

Article: Refusal to recuse stirs legal debate

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

The child told her mother that something happened at the January 2008 party at Ms. Craft's house, Ms. Lawson testified.

During the mother's testimony at the trial, however, she said she found out about the alleged molestation after an incident on May 23, 2008.

On Thursday, the testimony of Courtney Lewis, a lifelong friend of Ms. Craft's, also conflicted with testimony from an earlier prosecution witness.

Ms. Lewis testified that her son spent the night at Ms. Craft's house several times a week in 2005-06 but she rarely saw any of the girls Ms. Craft is charged with molesting.

Ms. Lewis said she was at Ms. Craft's house often to drop off and pick up her son, who was friends with Ms. Craft's son. But she only saw the first alleged victim at Ms. Craft's house once that year, she said.

When the first girl, who now is 9, testified the first week of the trial, she said Ms. Craft had molested her when she spent the night during her kindergarten year and first-grade years, both of which were in 2005-06.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government 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 ...

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xyzyra said...

I still just don't get it. Also, "rumor" has it the D.A. didn't want to move forward with this case, but the ADA allegedly "sneaked" behind his back, while the D.A. was out of town, and file charges anyway? Perhaps, the DA should be called as a defense witness and asked, if true, why he fel the case should NOT move forward? Why did he, the D.A. have doubts and what those doubts might be?

April 30, 2010 at 12:58 p.m.
Humphrey said...

I really can not understand why the judge is allowing some of these lines of questioning. The testimony of the 8-year-old is, to me, damning for the prosecution. It calls in to question the veracity of the testimony of the accusing children - if they did not tell the truth about her also being touched and crying, how can we trust anything they said?

April 30, 2010 at 4:48 p.m.
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