WRAL Investigates

Granville couple accused of child sex charges face trial

Posted August 18, 2011 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated August 18, 2011 6:24 p.m. EDT

— A Granville County man and his estranged wife are set to go to trial next week on allegations of child-sex charges dating to 2004. Meanwhile, one of the two victims is speaking out, hoping that her story will help others.

The Granville County Sheriff’s Office originally investigated the first claim in 2006, but it wasn't until a second girl came forward last year, saying that Marcello Lara III videotaped himself having sex with her, that the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation pressed charges.

Combined, Marcello Lara III, 39, and his wife, Marie Lara, 27, face nearly two dozen sex offense and sexual exploitation charges for crimes in Granville and Orange counties.

Both are set to go to trial in Granville County on Monday, according to the court's calendar, but Marie Lara says she will be testifying against her husband. A court date in Orange County is set for next month.

Granville County prosecutors won't talk about the case.

Search warrants indicate that the abuse claims involve both Marcello Lara III and his wife engaging in sexual acts with the two girls and also taking pornographic pictures and videos of them.

Marie Lara, however, denies victimizing any children, saying her husband manipulated her.

"My biggest thing is that I just didn't see it like I was supposed to," she said. "I can't take it back. I can't change what's happened, but I can change what's going to happen – how I live the rest of my life, and it's never going to be controlled by a man ever again."

The accusations initially surfaced in 2006 after the first girl broke down in school while watching a video about sex abuse.

Now 17, she plans to testify against the couple.

"Honestly, there is never going to be enough sentence to take away what they've done to any of these children – my children or anybody (else's)," the girl's mother said. "These kids will have to live with that for the rest of their lives."

Marcello Lara III, who is in the Granville County jail, declined a request for an interview, but his father, Marcello Lara Jr., believes the investigation has been unfair. He says he does not think that his son will get a fair trial.

"I don't believe that he did that. With all my heart, I don't," Marcello Lara Jr. said. "He's never been in trouble his whole life, and now, you tell me all this? I don't believe it."

At least one of the victims says she believes there might be others. She recalls there being many children in the Lara home.

"They acted sexual, and they were only 8 years old, and 8-year-olds shouldn't act that way," she said.

For her, the trial and its outcome are about healing and justice.

"I just want him and his wife to realize what they've done is wrong and that they can't ever change what they've done to children," she said. "They've ruined people's lives."