By Melydia Clewell
CATOOSA COUNTY (WRCB) A former kindergarten teacher charged with child molestation wants you to hear her side of the story. Tonya Craft staunchly denies accusations she sexually abused young girls.
Channel-3 Eyewitness News Reporter Melydia Clewell joins us now with a story you'll see, "Only on 3." Tonya Craft faces more than 400 years in prison when she goes on trial next month in Catoosa County.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys accuse each other of under-handed tactics. But they agree on one thing: this is a high stakes case with high emotion.
Tonya Craft says, "there are times the tears won't stop and there are times where I think there's not another tear that I can cry." @
The indictment of Tonya Craft charges her with molesting three little girls. "It's been very difficult to defend myself because of a multitude of things" she says.
The investigation began at Chickamauga Elementary when one of her kindergartners said she'd been victimized in Craft's house during sleep overs with her daughter.
Scott King, Craft's defense attorney, says "the problem is, with this entire case, from Day One, everyone has run with it not caring whether there was the evidence to back it up." Her attorneys call it a witch hunt. Clancy Covert, defense attorney, says " well, I think it is important that the truth does come out. And our client has nothing to hide. You know, she's taken two polygraphs and passed both of them with flying colors. "
That's not admissible in court and attorney Scott King says prosecutors won't hand over evidence that can be used in Craft's defense. King says "we know that there are treatment records, medical records, stuff that are absolutely relevant to this case, interviews with several children whose names were thrown in who said nothing happened. And those have mysteriously disappeared or have not been provided to us.
Chris Arnt, Assistant District Attorney for Catoosa County, says "we're not withholding any evidence they're entitled to."
Arnt says the defense wants medical files for every child mentioned in the investigation.
Arnt says "we don't have the right to do it and we certainly don't have the right to do it for the mere purpose of giving it to them."
The defense also questions the way the Catoosa Sheriff's office handled the case. They say detectives failed to do the basic leg work you'd expect to see in any investigation.
King says "they didn't interview other people in the house, they didn't come look at the house to see if the way these allegations were described could've even happened. They didn't do police work 101."
Catoosa Sheriff Phil Summers declined to talk with Channel 3 for this story. Major Gary Sisk says they stand behind their investigators and their case against Tonya Craft.
Arnt says, "they're taking their case to the media and trying to handle things in the media and that's the type of thing that you see from people that represent guilty defendants."
Craft say she just wants the truth to come out, starting with the background of her main accuser.
Tonya Craft says " you're also dealing with a professional child actress that played the role of an abused child, uhm, it's very scary to me to wonder how I'm going to defend myself. From the beginning I feel like its been, kinda been skewed and unfair."
Tonya's dad says" you know, our leaders, our police and everything we've grown up to trust and everything, they're the ones you have to fear the most sometimes."
Craft's parents used their life savings for her defense.
They're among hundreds of supporters who've filled the room for every hearing in her case.
They say they'll stand behind her no matter the outcome of her case.
Her mother Betty Faires says "we know that the truth will never change. The truth never, never changes. "
@Tonya says "no matter what the result is, I'm innocent and whatever a jury decides doesn't change that."
in another twist, a private investigator serving subpoenas for the defense was indicted on charges of witness tampering.
Prosecutors contend Eric Echols threatened three of their witnesses.
He's set for trial March 15th, the same day as Tonya Craft.
We'll be there as the trial starts in two weeks ... It's coverage you can count on.