FLORENCE — The trial of a former Casa Grande resident, who is accused of having sexual relations with his stepchildren, opened Tuesday in Pinal County Superior Court.
Manuel Carlos, 38, appeared before Judge Delia Neal and a jury of six men and eight women, including two alternates, to begin his felony trial. He is charged with two counts of sexual relations with a minor.
In his opening statement Tuesday, state prosecutor and Deputy County Attorney William Wallace said Carlos had sexual relations with his two step-daughters between 2010 and 2016 when they lived in Casa Grande.
He said one of the two girls came forward to a school guidance counselor in 2018, when she lived in Florida, and told of how her stepfather sexually assaulted her years earlier in Arizona.
“She said something has happened to me in my past,” Wallace told the jury. “When my mom was married to a man named Manuel Carlos — he did these things to me.”
Wallace said the girl was 15 years old when the alleged assaults occurred in Casa Grande.
After one daughter came forward with the allegations, her sister also came forward.
“And you’re going to hear what happened to her in Casa Grande some time ago,” Wallace said. “This defendant used his role as a stepfather ... to use them for his own sexual desires.”
He said Carlos and the girls’ mother were married from 2010 to 2016.
Wallace alleged that Carlos began sexually assaulting the girls when they were just 8 or 9. He said the offenses took place in North Carolina, Washington and Arizona.
In 2016, the family moved to Chandler and the marriage fell apart, according to Wallace.
Carlos shook his head in the courtroom when Wallace made the accusations against him.
Defense attorney David Cutrer of Phoenix opened his case by telling the jury, “With all respect, if that were accurate, we wouldn’t be here.”
Cutrer reminded the jury that the state has the burden to prove its case against his client.
“My job is to complete the picture. The state gave you a portion, I’ll give you a road map,” Cutrer said. “Mr. Carlos adamantly denies the allegations.”
Cutrer told the jury of Carlos’s military service as a paratrooper in Afghanistan and how he became a correctional officer in Pinal County after he married the girls’ mother in 2010 in North Carolina.
“This man has never been accused of anything before this. He has no prior wrong-doings,” Cutrer said. “Eventually, he took a job as a correctional officer in Casa Grande.”
Cutrer said the tales of Carlos assaulting the girls only came to existence after the couple divorced and her older son wrecked a car in Florida in January 2016. Carlos owned and insured the vehicle. Carlos was paying for many of his ex-wive’s bills but Cutrer maintained he “cut her off” after the wreck of the vehicle.
The disappearance of financial support is something Cutrer told the jury caused the new sexual assault allegations. Cutrer said the two girls always resented Carlos.
He said there is no physical evidence in this case against Carlos, only people making accusations.
He said Carlos would be testifying in his own defense later in the case.
“The state has to explain any unanswered questions, I challenge them to do it,” Cutrer said.
The trial continues though the week with testimony expected through at least Friday.