Dorian Lee Harper, left, and Wanda Sue Larson are charged with child abuse in North Carolina after an 11-year-old boy was found handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken draped around his neck.
(Photo: Union County (N.C.) Sheriff's Office)
A social services supervisor and a nurse face child abuse charges after an 11-year-old North Carolina boy was found handcuffed to a porch, shivering, with a dead chicken around his neck, Union County authorities say.
Sheriff Eddie Cathey told USA TODAY the child was discovered Friday in frigid temperatures after neighbors complained about animals running loose at the home outside Monroe. Cathey said a deputy began interviewing Dorian Lee Harper, an emergency room nurse and the boy's foster parent, about the boy when another child opened the door and released several dogs that chased the deputy away.
More deputies arrived and searched the home, finding five children, ages 14, 13, 11, 9 and 8. Harper and Wanda Sue Larson, both 57, had adopted four of the children and had been fostering the fifth, the child handcuffed to the porch, Cathey said.
Larson is a supervisor with the Union County Department of Social Services. Cathey said his deputies had a good working relationship with Larson - and that both suspects were well-respected in their professions.
"It's shocking to see how they lived," Cathey said. "The conditions were horrible. Trash, filth, animals and animal waste inside and outside the home. You could barely breath inside that house."
All the children were taken into custody by a social services department from a neighboring county, Cathey said. Both parents are charged with intentional child abuse, inflicting serious injury, false imprisonment and cruelty to animals. Larson also is charged with willful failure to discharge her duty as a public official.
Harper's bail was set to $500,000, Larson's at $525,000. Both face hearings Monday.
"This investigation has only just begun," Cathey said. "We are fortunate that we were called. Sooner or later this situation could have ended in a child's death."
John Bacon, USA TODAY