Witnesses dispute previous testimony

Witnesses dispute previous testimony

April 30th, 2010 by Joy Lukachick Smith in News

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.

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

Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press Tonya...

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?"

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.