A prominent Ville Platte couple who say they were falsely accused of heinous sex crimes against three young girls have filed a lawsuit against State Police, the state Department of Child and Family Services and the children’s foster parents for what they claim were “negligent and intentional” actions that led to the couple’s wrongful arrest and subsequent decline in business at their once-thriving restaurant.
Marla and Barry Giglio
As The Independent reported in its October 2011 cover story, “Hell to Pay,” Barry and Marla Giglio, owners of The Pig Stand restaurant in Ville Platte, were arrested by Louisiana State Police on May 20, 2011 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.
More troubling for the Ville Platte residents watching the statewide news coverage of the Giglios’ arrests was the couple’s level of civic involvement in the community. Barry was a Lion’s Club member who helped with fundraisers for various causes and also served at one time on the town’s historic preservation board. The Ville Platte Chamber of Commerce nominated Barry more than once for Businessman of the Year.
Maintaining their innocence since Day 1, Barry and Marla spent 18 and 19 days behind bars, respectively, before their bonds were set at $300,000 each. Meanwhile, business at the restaurant slowed to a crawl.
More than three months after their arrest, 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 unspeakable crime.
But nine months later, the couple find themselves still suffering from the stigma of the accusations and a huge loss of business and income at The Pig Stand. Their attorney, Chris Villemarette of Lafayette, says the Giglios are still not completely sure of how the accusations came to be because the state won’t release specifics related to the investigation.
“It’s tragic that even though the grand jury in St. Landry Parish found not enough evidence to prosecute, Barry and Marla Giglio are still feeling the effects of having been accused of such a heinous crime,” says Villemarette. “The Internet chatter has stopped for the most part, but they still feel that the decline in their business is directly attributable to the accusations.”
According to the lawsuit filed in St. Landry Parish, the children’s mother worked for the Giglios at their Ville Platte restaurant, eventually confiding in the Giglios about her ongoing struggles with drug abuse. When the mother and the Giglios decided rehab was the best option, Barry and Marla joined the children’s mother for a meeting with the state Department of Child and Family Services to request temporary state custody for the children while their mother sought treatment.
Following the meeting with the state agency, an Evangeline Parish judge on Oct. 1, 2010, turned the children over to foster parents Dwayne and Mindy Venable, “pending a determination whether the mother could follow the case plan and if not, whether to terminate the mother’s rights and allow Dwayne Venable and Mindy Venable to adopt the three minor children,” the lawsuit states.
The Venables are also named defendants in the Giglios’ lawsuit, accused by the Giglios of coaching the children in making false statements to authorities to better the Venables’ chances of permanently adopting the three girls.
“These are the same foster parents who were taking notes for four days before contacting the authorities, the foster parents who want to adopt the kids,” Villemarette says. “If close friends and family were eliminated as a placement for these kids, the only alternative would be the foster parents.”
According to the Giglios’ lawsuit, State Police, in their investigation, failed to verify with Child and Family Services the fact that the children were in the care of the foster parents when the alleged sex crimes happened.
Six days after the Giglios were arrested, “the three minor children presented yet another different story and accused five other individuals of molesting them and being participants in a sex orgy with them.”
“None of the five individuals named in the May 26, 2011 statement were arrested,” the lawsuit states.
The Giglios also claim in the lawsuit that Ville Platte Main Street Coordinator and business owner Pam McGee published false and malicious statements about the Giglios on the Internet following their arrests. They’re suing her for defamation.
Trooper Stephen Hammons, State Police Troop I spokesman, says his agency has not yet received the lawsuit.
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