Friend Of Tonya Craft Is First Defense Witness

Threats, Smears, Catty Comments Make For Chickamauga Desperate Housewives Episode

Monday, April 26, 2010 - by Dennis Norwood

The defense began calling witnesses during Monday afternoon’s session of the Tonya Craft child molestation case in the Superior Court of Catoosa County and the testimony quickly became a TV Guide note for Chickamauga Desperate Housewives.

Among the things divulged were alleged threats, smear tactics and catty comments. This all allegedly began at the home of the woman where a young girl had written the words “sex and kissing xoxoxo” in chalk beside the swimming pool. It occurred as the families had arrived to pick up their children. The women who at one time had all been friends of Ms. Craft’s were making comments about her appearance at the Walker County Gala held at the Fairyland Club on Lookout Mountain, it was testified.

Kim Walker told the jury that the other parents were angry at the defendant.

She said one father whose daughter Ms. Craft had held back from first grade made the statement that he became so angry in their meeting with Ms. Craft and school administrators that he had wanted to jump across the table and ‘kill the b----.” Earlier the school principal, Kristin Bradley, had testified that the man had never lost his temper in that same meeting. His wife said it was ‘Tonya’s fault’ that her daughter had not been promoted. Earlier she, herself, had testified that she had not blamed the teacher.

The witness said the mother of the first girl to testify, with whom Ms. Craft and her husband had attended the gala, had said that Ms. Craft’s dress was ‘slutty.’ The witness said she and her husband had stayed a little longer at the home of the first alleged victim and the entire time the others were making bad comments about Ms. Craft.

Ms. Walker, a Tonya Craft friend and supporter, also claimed that threats were made against her. Ms. Walker’s own daughter was interviewed by law enforcement officers and no evidence of sexual abuse was found, she said.

She said this fact apparently made the mother of the first alleged victim angry. Ms. Walker said she called her and said, “You need to ask (name withheld) more about this." Ms. Walker said, "It was like she wanted her (my daughter) to have been abused.”

After this Ms. Walker testified that she received a phone message on her cell phone while she was at the ball field from the same person saying, “You can call back or not call back. If you don’t call back, I have information on you and I will go forward with it.” “How did that make you feel,” asked Mr. Covert. “I felt threatened,” she answered.

The witness testified that when she first came to know the defendant and her now accusers they all seemed to be friends with one another. “But now,” she said, “I could tell they hated that woman. (Name withheld) helped out as Tonya’s homeroom mom so I was really surprised.”

Earlier, she said the same mom had told her that if she didn’t take her child in for an interview, DFCS would come into the child’s classroom and pull her out for an interview without she or her husband present. It was only then that she and her husband agreed to the CAC interview with Sgt. Tim Deal. Later ADA Chris Arnt would hammer away at the witness regarding her refusing to cooperate with Sgt. Deal for another interview with her daughter who had earlier been cleared of any sexual abuse. Mr. Arnt also accused her of failing to cooperate with the DA’s own investigator, Roger Smith, Jr.

Mr. Smith, who did not testify for the prosecution, called Ms. Walker and asked her to bring her daughter in for another interview after Sgt. Deal had told them her daughter would not be part of this case. Ms. Walker refused, saying she would be happy to come in herself with her husband. She went on to tell about the investigator allegedly threatening her by saying they would make her daughter go before the grand jury and testify. Later Mr. Arnt would tell her while on the stand that they could have done that but did not. In an earlier interview one of the CAC employees had mentioned that the norm was to do only one interview.

The mother of the first child witness made another threat to Ms. Craft, according to the witness, when she said, “I don’t want to shoot her, I want to run over her and then watch her take her last breath.”

Mr. Arnt also asked, “Did you practice your testimony with the defense?” “No, sir," was Ms. Walker’s answer. The ADA also took exception with Ms. Walker’s letting the court only find out today that her sister was a social worker at the time who talked to her daughter and could not find anything amiss with the young girl. “Why didn’t you tell Investigator Rogers about your sister," Mr. Arnt asked. “Because I didn’t feel comfortable with him and I wasn’t under oath at the time,” she remarked.

In contrast to one of the girls’ step-mothers, Ms. Walker said she had never seen the girls’ hair matted and smelly.

Mr. Arnt in his closing question asked the witness again about a comment made by Sgt. Deal in his first interview; she replied that the investigator had told her and her husband, “It’s going to take a lot more than the word of a seven-year-old before I go out and arrest this kindergarten teacher.”

The trial was recessed just after five o’clock Monday with an order from Judge Brian House to re-convene at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

(You can email Dennis Norwood at Updates can be found throughout the day on NewsieNoogan and Chattanoogancom)

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