coverWednesday, October 5, 2011

Despite a grand jury's 'No True Bill,' unspeakable accusations left The Pig Stand's Barry and Marla Giglio pariahs in the community that once adopted and embraced them. By Heather Miller
Photos by Robin May

Marla Giglio earnestly recalls sitting quietly at her home computer the morning of May 20, sifting through emails and readying for what she thought was shaping up to be a day like any other.

A few miles up the road in the heart of Ville Platte, her husband Barry was at work by 7 a.m. in his office behind The Pig Stand, the thriving restaurant he purchased five years ago.

Marla Giglio was home alone that morning when a pounding at the front door startled her out of her morning routine.

Barry Giglio was alone in his office when he heard the same staggering sound.

“Before I could even get up and walk to my door [police] were in my house telling me I was under arrest,” Marla, 51, says.

“They barged in here acting like I was a terrorist,” says Barry, also 51.

On May 20, the Giglios were arrested by Louisiana State Police and booked into the St. Landry Parish Jail on three counts each of aggravated rape. The Giglios, along with six other adults, were accused of forcing three young girls, 4, 5 and 7 years old, to have sex with them in a camper/trailer in rural Church Point.
Marty and Brandy Blood of St. Landry were booked on three counts each of aggravated rape. The four others implicated, Lawrence Ricks Jr., Jennifer Stelly, Alice Stelly and John Stelly, were arrested on three counts of aggravated rape and three counts of aggravated incest. Marty and Brandy Blood have additional pending rape charges in Evangeline Parish, and Ricks is also facing three counts of aggravated rape in Pointe Coupee Parish.

“When they said three counts of rape I said, ‘There’s no way. I’ll get on my knees and swear to Jesus that there’s no way,’” says Marla. “By the time we were questioned, I was hysterical. I’ve never even had a speeding ticket.”
State Police, following protocol, sent out a statewide press release to media outlets announcing the arrests. LSP Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson called the crime “unconscionable” in a prepared statement.

The highly publicized ordeal immediately shocked the small Cajun town and brought the Giglios’ business and civic interests to the forefront of media coverage.

Barry and Marla Giglio spent 18 and 19 days behind bars, respectively, before their bonds were set at $300,000 each.

Transplants from coastal Plaquemines Parish, the Giglios moved to Ville Platte more than five years ago after Katrina wrecked their home and three businesses. Barry was the proud owner of a jewelry store, floral shop and catering company in the Empire-Buris areas before the storm, he says.

When the couple was forced to evacuate to Chicot State Park north of Ville Platte in 2005, “the community was so nice to us,” Barry recalls.
“We fell in love.”

The Pig Stand, a Ville Platte institution that’s served residents for decades, was for sale at the time. The Giglios gave it some thought and decided to buy the restaurant and rebuild their lives in Evangeline Parish.

It wasn’t long after relocating that the Giglios resumed the civic activities they were often involved with in their hometown, Barry says.

Barry joined the Lion’s Club, helped with fundraisers for the Ville Platte battered women’s shelter and donated to almost any cause that walked through the restaurant doors. The remodeling and expansion project on his restaurant eventually landed him a mayoral appointment to the town’s historic preservation board.

He was nominated more than once for Businessman of the Year by the Ville Platte Chamber of Commerce.

“We had a great business,” Barry says.

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As the Giglios’ criminal status remained in limbo, they watched their restaurant business decrease by 75 percent.

“The minute these accusations came they turned up their nose. We had people attacking us, putting peer pressure on others not to come here and support us,” Barry recalls.

In early September, a grand jury returned a “no true bill” on the Giglios and four others arrested for child rape, determining that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support an indictment.

The Giglios were never formally charged with the heinous crimes.

John and Alice Stelly’s charges were “pretermitted” by the grand jury, meaning there wasn’t enough evidence to return an indictment or a no true bill. The charges against the Stellys could be brought back to a grand jury at a later date. The six other people arrested with the Giglios May 20 were jailed for roughly four months awaiting the grand jury hearing.

“We knew the charges were false, but we also knew they were serious,” Barry says. “We weren’t worried about our innocence. We were just worried about the system.”

St. Landry Parish District Attorney Earl Taylor says he’s satisfied. State Police are disappointed. All along, the Giglios have maintained their innocence and say they still haven’t been fully briefed on the details of the investigation or how the accusations came to be. Due to the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, the ages of the alleged victims and the ongoing State Police investigation, most of the case specifics are not public record.

“The grand jury’s a really good screening device for us. We have an opportunity to have them hear the witnesses that would be heard at trial, then they decide,” Taylor says. “If this happened, it was a horrible situation. But if it didn’t happen, it’s also a horrible situation. You had six people who spent four months of their life in jail.”

Because of the explicit nature of the case and the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation, very little can be said publicly about how the Giglios were associated with the three young girls. Although two of the couples arrested with the Giglios were booked on aggravated incest charges, naming their relationships to the children could inadvertently identify the minor children in the case.

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The three young girls involved in the case are the children of a former Pig Stand employee who was battling a drug problem. The Giglios acknowledge that they were the ones who approached the office of Child and Family Services about temporary state custody for the children and say they were also interviewed by the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office in connection to the pending sex charges against the Bloods in Evangeline Parish.

The Giglios say they had never met four of the co-defendants in the case before the arrests and maintain that they’ve never stepped foot inside the Church Point trailer where the alleged crimes took place around October of last year.

State Police Troop I spokesman Trooper Stephen Hammons says the investigation began when the office of Child and Family Services notified law enforcement of a potential sexual abuse case involving children who were taken into state custody. The evidence gathered, he says, was sufficient for a judge to sign an arrest warrant. State Police stand by the investigation and arrests.

“We are disappointed by the grand jury’s findings,” Hammons says. “However we do respect the judicial process and their decision. We’re still reviewing this case. We will take appropriate action at the appropriate time with it.”

The Giglios’ return to post-accusation life has been slow at best, and often plagued by recurring nightmares of the arrests and jail time.

As for The Pig Stand restaurant that at one time boasted lunch lines out the door, the Giglios are still unsure whether the business will ever make a full recovery.

“It’s picked up very little since we were cleared,” Marla says.

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The couple relied heavily on the encouragement of family and friends who supported them throughout the process, though the secrecy of the case leaves some Ville Platte residents unmoved by the grand jury’s return. Barry was recently asked to resign from the Lion’s Club — after the grand jury chose not to indict him.

“They said it’s a bad image,” Barry says. “It seems like it was yesterday that it happened. It’s a culture shock to be back into society. It’s embarrassing to look at people in public. Some people didn’t believe it. Some people now realize it was a bunch of bull. Some people you’ll never convince. There’s rumors going around that we bought our way out of this, that the well-connected got out of this. You don’t get out of stuff like this. These are serious charges. I know who my true friends are now. I’m not really mad at the [police] for doing what they had to do. We knew we were innocent but had to go through due process. I’m a firm believer now that there are many innocent people in jail.”

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