RINGGOLD, GA. -- A child sexual abuse expert testified Monday at the trial of a former teacher accused of child molestation that she had doubts about the stories the children told in previous interviews.
During her testimony, Dr. Nancy Aldridge, child specialist at Briarcliff Psychological Associates in Atlanta, scrutinized each interview the three children conducted with local social workers.
Dr. Aldridge testified that children may not disclose all the details of sexual abuse in their first interviews, but usually they give the "core elements" of what happened.
She spent all day on the stand in the trial of Tonya Craft, a former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher who is charged with 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation. The charges involve three girls.
Dr. Aldridge, who has 22 years' experience working with children suspected of sexual abuse, said that, over the years, she has testified at trials for the prosecution about 185 times and for the defense about 15 times.
As defense attorney Demosthenes Lorandos led Dr. Aldridge through the printed transcript of a video interview conducted with the first child in 2008, he pointed out that, after the initial interview, the child came back in the room and gave explicit details of how Ms. Craft molested her. That part of the interview, however, was not on video.
Dr. Aldridge said getting the child on camera to explore that new information was important.
"You have to know what happened in between interviews," she testified. "Who did the child speak with? What transpired?"
While going through an interview conducted by Catoosa County Sheriff's Office Detective Tim Deal with the second alleged victim, Dr. Aldridge testified she saw some problems with how it was conducted.
Mr. Lorandos pointed out the place in the interview where the child told Detective Deal, "My mommy told me which is which and where she touched me." Dr. Aldridge said such an answer would concern her as an experienced interviewer.
During cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt asked if the child's answer in the interview about her mother could be interpreted as the mother explaining to her child the different body parts.
Dr. Aldridge said one explanation could be educating the child, but the other could be that mother was telling the child what happened.
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