Tonya Craft Sues Accusers In $25 Million Federal Lawsuit

Defendants Include Parents Of Accusers, Investigators

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tonya Craft, who was absolved of all charges of child molestation in a highly-publicized trial at Ringgold, has filed a lawsuit against her accusers in Federal Court in Rome, Ga.

The 52-page complaint asks $25 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

The defendants include parents of the children who brought charges against her, the lead detective in the case, the Catoosa County sheriff and officials who investigated the complaints.

Defendants are Sandra Lamb, Sherri and Dewayne Wilson, her former husband Joal Henke and his current wife Sarah, Kelli McDonald, Sgt. Tim Deal, Catoosa County, Catoosa County Sheriff Phil Summers, Suzi Thorne, Stacy Long, Laurie Evans, the Childrens Advocacy Center of the Lookout Mountain Judicial District and the Greenhouse Childrens Advocacy Center.

The complaint did not name prosecutors Chris Arnt and Len Gregor, who enjoy prosecutorial immunity.

The suit says the children who brought charges against her were coached and that the allegations were not corroborated.

It says the former Chickamauga Elementary School teacher suffered humiliation and embarrassment by the two-year ordeal.

After a trial that lasted into the fourth week, a jury in Catoosa County cleared her of 22 counts of child molestation.

The suit was filed by attorneys Scott and Cary King of Atlanta, who were part of the four-person defense team at the trial.

It says "false and malicious" statements were made against Ms. Craft, including charges that she is a sexual pervert, a criminal and a parent whose behavior was totally inappropriate.

The suit says the "extreme and outrageous conduct of defendants was designed to subvert the parental and familial relationships between the plaintiff and her family."

It says the defendants conspired "to manipulate the youngest member of plaintiff's immediate family into the role of sex abuse victim."

The complaint says charges were brought against Ms. Craft "through fraud, corruption, perjury, fabricated evidence and/or other wrongful conduct undertaken in bad faith."

The suit says she "was arrested on charges she did not commit."

It says the charges "had no reasonable basis, were not supported by probable cause and were initiated out of sheer malice on these defendants' parts."

The complaint says she suffered humiliation, outrage, indignity, conscious pain and suffering and loss of custody of her two children.

It says she also suffered mental suffering and sorrow, headaches, emotional stress, grief, anger, horror, fright, the stress and costs of legal fees and scores of court appearances, and "outright distrust of law and judicial officials."

The suit asks that the name of Tonya Renee Craft be removed from the records of any Georgia site or list of child abusers.

It asks that the court "establish a protocol to competently investigate claims of sexual abuse, which includes corroborating information and/or competent forensic evaluation" and "establish a protocol to competently conduct investigatory interviews of children concerning possible sexual abuse which specifically requires video taped interviews and avoids adult interviewer sexualization of the interview, use of leading questions, multiply repeated questions, disconfirmation, and anatomically detailed dolls."

It asks that agencies "competently train and supervise their employees to enable them to effectively investigate claims of sexual abuse and interview children that have alleged sexual abuse in keeping with the established protocol."

The complaint says there was "development of a program of indoctrination of the minor children into the role of sex abuse victims despite significant evidence that sex abuse never happened."

It says there was "constant emotional pressure akin to torture upon the minor children under the guise of 'therapy' to coerce them to 'remember' - adopt and rehearse defendants' version of their statements in the Suzie Thorne, Stacy Long, Tim Deal and Laurie Evans interviews."

The suit says Ms. Craft now lives in Soddy Daisy and the Henkes live in Ooltewah.

It says Ms. Lamb lives at Ringgold and the Wilsons in Rossville. Ms. McDonald is from Chickamauga.

Ms. Thorne is employed by the GreenHouse Childrens Advocacy Center and Ms. Long and Ms. Evans by the Childrens Advocacy Center of the Lookout Mountain Judicial District in Fort Oglethorpe.

The suit says on May 19, 2008, Ms. Lamb reported in a phone call to state social worker that her minor daughter had been involved in "child-on-child sexual touching" with Ms. Craft's daughter, who is two years younger. It says Ms. Craft was not implicated "despite repeated and suggestive questioning in which Ms. Craft was continually mentioned by name" by Ms. Lamb.

It says four days later, during a last-day-of-school party at the Wilson home, Ms. Wilson noticed that a minor child used sidewalk chalk to write "sex and kissing xoxoxo" in six-inch letters. It says Ms. Wilson called the child's parents, who came to her home and had a detailed discussion in which the Wilsons "made numerous false and derogatory comments" about Ms. Craft.

The complaint says the parents afterward began "repeatedly and suggestively" questioning their children about inappropriate touching.

It says one of the children made a statement about inappropriate touching "after hours and/or days of such inappropriate questioning."

The complaint says one of the children was then interviewed by Ms. Long and she said she knew about the touching because "My momma told me."

It says another child told Sgt. Deal, "My momma told me which is which and where they touched me."

The complaint says Tonya Craft's children were then removed from her custody and placed with the Henkes.

It says the Henkes began to "suggestively question" her daughter.

The suit says Sarah Henke had showered with the daughter and shaved her genital area while in the shower with her.

It says such actions "were psychologically devastating to" the girl.

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