A 6-year-old girl who attended an exclusive day care center near Columbia told her mother that two teen-age boys took nude pictures of the woman who owns the center with groups of nude children, according to the mother's testimony in court here today.
The mother, whose name is not being printed in order to protect her child's identity, testified in Howard County Circuit Court that her daughter told her on July 16 that she and Sandra Craig, the owner of Craig's Pre-School in Clarksville, had been photographed together nude at the center.
The mother also testified that the girl told her the teen-age boys -- including Craig's son -- took pictures of her by herself without clothes on.
In separate testimony, the father of a 5-year-old boy and the boy's therapist testified that Craig ignored the boy's pleas for protection from sexual abuse by the teen-agers, beat him with a switch and threatened to kill him and his parents if he talked about the alleged abuse.
The witnesses' statements were the first public allegations of pornography and abuse against Craig, owner of a center that was shut down temporarily Friday by the court while police investigate alleged physical and sexual abuse of at least four children. The testimony came during a hearing on Craig's appeal of the court order.
Until today, the allegations had centered on Craig's 16-year-old son and another teen-ager whose identity is unknown.
Craig's attorney, Fred Colodner, asked that today's hearing be open.
"The charges that are being presented now are against my wife, they are not just against my son," Michael S. Craig said during a court recess. "They're so weird, some of them, that's why we want them out in the open."
Colodner said that when the hearing continues on Friday, testimony will show that the allegations are unfounded and are "purely hearsay allegations -- hearsay on top of hearsay."
Colodner said witnesses for Craig will include a doctor, parents with children at the center, friends and neighbors of the Craigs.
In separate interviews, Michael Craig and his wife, both of whom are black, said the allegations are racially motivated and may represent an effort to force them to sell the center and their three-acre lot, which they said has escalated sharply in value as a result of recent development in the county.
Judge Joseph Fisher's emergency order last Friday -- "to protect the health of the center's children" -- marked the first such closure of a day care center in Howard, according to county officials.