Local News

Trial begins for ex-teacher charged with sex abuse

Posted July 28, 2008 12:49 p.m. EDT
Updated July 28, 2008 5:55 p.m. EDT

— Jury selection began Monday in the trial of a former Chapel Hill teacher charged with sexually abusing five girls ages 5 to 8.

Eric Grange, 45, of 519 Banks St. in Raleigh, is charged with five counts of statutory first-degree sex offense and four counts of indecent liberties with a child. Police said the girls were abused at the Montessori Community School in Chapel Hill in 2005 and 2006.

Grange, a French citizen, resigned from the Montessori school in June 2006 after authorities questioned him about suspected abuse of students, school officials said. U.S. immigration agents arrested him at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., three months later after warrants had been issued in the case.

The trial is expected to last four to six weeks, and six children are expected to testify against Grange.

"This is no way for a child to spend their summer break," said the mother of one of the girls. She said her daughter still struggles with what happened to her.

To protect the privacy of the girls and their families, Assistant Durham County District Attorney Jan Paul requested that the media be banned from the courtroom when the children testify.

"Cameras in the courtroom, even identifying the parents, would certainly identify the families and would definitely be to the detriment of the children," Paul said.

Defense attorney Thomas Manning agreed to the request to bar the media.

The case is being handled in Durham County Superior Court because Montessori Community School is located in the part of Chapel Hill that lies in Durham County.