“I’m very thankful,” Echols said Thursday. “I felt very blessed when I opened up that letter saying that the DA’s office was no longer going to pursue the charges.”
Echols, who was hired as part of Tonya Craft’s defense against accusations that she molested three young girls, was arrested after a father of one of the girls told the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office that Echols had used intimida-tion tactics to persuade him against testifying in the case.
Craft, a former kindergarten teacher at Chickamauga Elementary School, was acquitted on May 11, 2010, in Catoosa County Superior Court, on all 22 counts of child molestation, aggravated child molestation, and aggravated sexual battery.
Echols was charged with three counts of tampering with a witness.
“I’m just glad that somebody in the district attorney’s office finally came to the realization that enough is enough,” Echols said. “I thought that was going to happen when all four judges of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit (Brian House, Bo Wood, Ralph Van Pelt Jr., and Kristina Cook Graham) recused themselves in the case against me, but it took a little bit longer.”
Messages left for assistant district attorney Alan Norton went not returned Thursday afternoon.
At the time of his arrest, as well as since his release, Echols has admitted no wrongdoing in his investigative tac-tics towards the witness in question.
“Eric did absolutely nothing wrong and is a wonderful investigator,” Tonya Craft said Thursday. “The only ques-tionable thing he did was get involved with my case, because it’s been such an ordeal for him.”
According to Craft, Echols was simply doing his job at the time he was arrested.
“There was never any intimidation, no threats made towards any witnesses. There was nothing unethical about what he did at all,” Craft said. “That witness willingly talked to him for over an hour the first little meeting they had, and it wasn’t like [witnesses’ name] was begging to leave. In my opinion, the whole scenario was completely out of line. There is audio tape of the conversations that is now public record, and anybody who listens to it will agree that there was nothing threatening about what Eric did.”
Craft also believes that the circumstances surrounding Echols’ arrest was an attempt to hinder her from defend-ing herself.
“After what Eric was going through trying to investigate the case, and after him being arrested for it, there wasn’t another investigator in the area that was going to go anywhere near my case,” she said. “The things that Eric was uncovering didn’t fit the prosecution’s theory of what they were trying to prove, so they tried to push him out of the picture… They were trying to fit square pegs into round holes, so they arrested him to get him out of the way.”
According to Craft, she knew that Echols was going to do the job right when she hired him.
“Eric was very up front from the very beginning,” she said. “He told me from day one that if in his investigation, he uncovered that I was in fact guilty of the charges I was facing, that whatever he found would become public knowledge and that the truth would be exposed. I accepted that guarantee from him, because I knew that I hadn’t committed the crimes I was being accused of. The whole situation with Eric was a case of an investigator doing a great job, and the powers that be arresting him to make it where I couldn’t defend myself.”
Echols and Craft both agree that although the matter is now dismissed, the charges should have never been filed.
“There comes a point when everybody who is anybody will finally say enough is enough,” Echols said.