On Thursday afternoon, Craft took the stand in her defense, answering the question that has been on many minds: Will she or won’t she testify? A packed courtroom witnessed it.
When lead defense attorney Demosthenes Lorandos called Craft to testify, he asked her, “What are you doing up there on the witness stand? … Don’t you know you have the right to remain silent?”
Craft said she was on the stand because she has been falsely accused of a crime.
“I have not sexually abused any children,” she said during testimony.
Craft, 37, a former Chickamauga Elementary School kindergarten teacher, is accused of molesting three girls.
She is facing 22 counts, including 10 counts of child molestation, six counts of aggravated sexual battery and six counts of aggravated child molestation. She has maintained her innocence since her arrest in June 2008.
Authorities filed charges after the girls told their parents that Craft touched them inappropriately during a sleepover at the teacher’s home and on other occasions. The girls would spend time at Craft’s home because they were friends with Craft’s daughter.
The trial has divided the close-knit community, many siding with Craft and calling the proceedings a witch hunt. Others, including the friends and family of the three girls Craft is accused of molesting, insist their children are telling the truth.
Craft testified about her first two marriages and the birth of her children. She also talked about her divorce from her second husband Joel Henke, and the custody battle that later ensued over their two children.
Just before court broke for the day, she discussed an incident where her daughter and one of the reported victims were caught touching one another.
Craft testified she was at a friend’s home, and they were making lunch when they heard yelling and screaming coming from a bedroom. Craft said when she arrived in the room, the mother was spanking her own daughter with a belt excessively. Craft said that looking back at the incident, she should have reported the mother for the punishment she was inflicting on the girl but didn’t.
Craft said she got her own daughter, who was crying, and said, “Let’s go.” Craft said they got in the car and left, and when they arrived at home, she asked her daughter what had happened, and her daughter said the other girl had touched her.
Earlier Thursday, Craft’s husband, David, testified that he believes his wife is innocent.
“My wife never did anything inappropriate with any child. She’s great with children,” David Craft said.
Besides being fired, since Tonya Craft was arrested in May 2008, she has lost custody of her daughter. She and her husband have also since moved to Soddy-Daisy, Tenn., about 30 miles north of Ringgold.
A long list of witnesses have testified during the trial that began April 12, including the three accusers, their parents, experts on both sides, Craft’s friends and others.
The trial is being held in Catoosa County Superior Court in downtown Ringgold, with Judge Brian House presiding. Court will resume today at 9 a.m.
Dorie Turner of the Associated Press contributed to this report.