WRAL Investigates

Granville County man pleads guilty to child sex charges

Posted August 22, 2011 12:23 p.m. EDT
Updated August 22, 2011 7:00 p.m. EDT

— A Granville County man who was supposed to go to trial Monday was sentenced to 16 to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to statutory rape and indecent liberties charges involving two girls.

Marcello Lara III, 39, was facing nine charges in connection with the crimes, which happened between 2005 and 2009.

Granville County Assistant District Attorney Cindy Bostic said in court Monday that he confessed to having sex multiple times with a 13-year-old victim from 2007 to 2009. He also confessed to victimizing an 11-year-old girl in October 2005.

Search warrant affidavits in the case allege that both Lara and his estranged wife, Maria Lara, 27, were involved in sex acts with the two girls and also took photos and videos of them.

Investigators found hundreds of pornographic images on Marcello Lara's computer, none of which were of the two girls, Bostic said.

Maria Lara, who faced five charges, pleaded guilty to two counts of sex offense. She was sentenced to three to six years in prison.

Granville County sheriff's investigators initially investigated the claims of one of the girls in 2006 and the State Bureau of Investigation reopened the case last year when the second victim went to authorities.

"I always was told I wanted it to happen or that I was a liar," one of the victims said in a statement read in court. "There's always going to be a place in my heart where I believe it's all my fault."

Marcello Lara also faces charges in Orange County. He is expected to go to trial there next month.