Eyewitness News Assignment Manager/Reporter
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - Eric Echols is charged with threatening one of the accusers and her parents.
He offers a dramatically different version of events leading to his arrest. He says prosecutors shut him down to keep the jury from seeing what he found in his investigation.
Echols says the indictment came before the D.A.'s office learned he recorded every interaction he had with potential witnesses.
"I record things because of situations just like this," Echols says.
Eric Echols used his cell phone to record an explosive encounter with Sandra Lamb as he delivered a subpoena last July.
Echols is a veteran investigator, owner of LPS Group in Marietta.
"It's a professional private detective agency. We do a lot of work for a lot of attorneys," Echols explains. "My job was to investigate the Tonya Craft case into its entirety."
But two weeks after the run in with lamb, Echols work came to a sudden stop.
"I was arrested in a court proceeding," he says.
Lamb filed a criminal warrant accusing Echols of harassment. He went to court for what he thought would be a magistrate hearing, but became suspicious when Lamb walked in without an attorney.
"She don't do anything without any attorney," Echols says. "And when she showed up without one that's when I knew something was not right…and they arrested me in the magistrate courtroom."
Prosecutor Chris Arnt had a three count indictment against Echols. The charges: influencing a witness with threats.
"It was two conversations that I had with the individual. Both willing conversations."
The witness involved, the dad of one of craft's accusers, talked with Echols for two hours, with his audio recorder rolling.
"I was doing my job, they were going after her, it didn't work and you know I got caught up in the web of things and now, you know, they stopped me," he says.
Stopped him, Echols says, because of what he uncovered in those conversations. "And once everything is revealed and the content and what was stated in the conversation, people are going to be equally as surprised that I was even arrested."
Sandra Lamb dropped her complaint against Echols. He put his complaint against her on hold until after craft's trial. He hasn't decided if he'll pursue assault charges.
Echols' trial is scheduled for September.
A conviction would not only mean probable prison time, Echols would lose his investigators' license and likely his business.
Prosecutor Chris Arnt, the man Echols says was behind the indictment, has not returned our calls.
Comment on this story below or join the conversation at Facebook.com/WRCBtv.