First on 3: Tonya Craft in Her Own Words
Updated 3/10 5:15 pm
The trial beginning date has been postponed until April 12.
Multiple sources close to the case have confirmed to Channel 3 that the reason for the trial delay involves a family emergency for one of the defense attorneys.
By Melydia Clewell
CATOOSA COUNTY (WRCB) -- In two weeks, a former North Georgia kindergarten teacher goes on trial for child molestation charges. Three young girls tell detectives Tonya Craft molested them in Catoosa County.
In an unusual step, Craft made the decision to open up to Channel 3 Eyewitness News about the case before her day in court. Channel 3 Eyewitness News Reporter Melydia Clewell talked with her and joins us now with Craft's story.... Only on 3.
Nearly two dozen times since her arrest in 2008, we've reported the charges against her, aired her mug shot on the news, and covered her termination hearing. Tonya Craft now wants you to hear her side of the story.
Tonya says, "From that day basically until now has been a whirlwind." That day, Catoosa County detectives knocked on Tonya Craft's front door.
Craft says "How can I go from being a mother and a teacher, a friend and an aunt and a daughter to having a mug shot on television for something I did not do?"
One of her kindergartners at Chickamauga Elementary accused Craft of sexually abusing her.
The girl told detectives the abuse happened to three little girls during several sleep overs with Craft's daughter.
"I guess I just kept in my mind thinking 'I haven't done anything wrong it's gonna be cleared up because I didn't do anything. '"
Instead, a year later the Catoosa grand jury heard enough evidence to send Craft to trial on nearly two dozen charges, including aggravated child molestation and aggravated sexual battery.
By then, her life had unraveled.
Betty Faires, Tonya's mother says "It's been very difficult.but whatever it takes, we're there for her. (She chokes up) no matter how long it takes, we'll be there. "
"We support Tonya 100 percent."
Craft says, "I have parents who've stood behind me and have lost their entire life savings because they're helping defend me."
Craft was fired from her teaching job two months after her arrest. Without income, she lost her house.
Most devastating says Craft, she lost custody of her two children. She hasn't seen her daughter in nearly two years.
Craft says, "Because of the case and the situation it took me months and months just to get to spend minimal time with my son."
Craft understands the nature of the charges warrant protecting children, including her own. But she says, in this case, she's been convicted before her day in court.
She says "If I was innocent until proven guilty then I would have my children, I would at least have contact. I would have my profession. I would have my home that I've lost I've lost everything without a trial."
@Craft is confident that when her case does go to court, she'll prove her innocence.
Regardless, she wants to work on changing laws and changing perceptions to give the accused benefit of doubt.
"It could happen to anybody at anytime and all there has to be is an accusation and that's it you're stripped of your rights and your life and your children."
The prosecutor says he believes Tonya Craft is guilty and he'll be ready to take her case to trial March 15th.
Chris Arnt is Assistant District Attorney for Catoosa County. He says "they wanna try the case in the media instead of in the courtroom and that's why, when you've asked, we will not discuss any of the evidence or the facts of the case. We do that in the courtroom."
Craft did take two polygraphs. Find out how she did as we take a closer look at the state's case against Tonya Craft on Eyewitness News at 6.