by DIANA RUGG / NBC Charlotte MONROE, N.C. — A Union County couple remained in jail Saturday night under more than a million dollars combined bond, charged with child abuse after a deputy found their 11-year-old foster child handcuffed to the porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck.
Dorian Lee Harper, 57, an emergency room nurse at CMC-Union in Monroe, and Wanda Sue Larson, 57, a Union County DSS supervisor, are charged with intentional child abuse inflicting serious injury, false imprisonment, and animal cruelty, because of the conditions of animals found at the home.
Larson faces an additional charge of failure to discharge her duty as a public official, based on her job as a DSS supervisor. She wasn’t home when the deputy found the boy, but was “complicit” in mistreatment of the children, according to a sheriff’s statement.
The couple has four other adopted children. Friday morning, an animal control deputy responding to a complaint about a loose pig found the boy at the home at 4116 Austin Road, south of Monroe, on Friday. The sheriff’s office said the deputy found the 11-year-old boy handcuffed to the porch rail by his ankle. A chicken, whose feet had been tied together with string, hung around his neck.
The boy appeared to be shivering, according to the sheriff’s office. Moments later, a man came out from the house and questioned the officer about why he was there, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office. The deputy asked for an explanation and for the man’s identification. As the man pulled out a driver’s license, another child opened the front door, letting out several large dogs.
The animals chased the deputy back to his patrol car off the property, said the statement. In the time it took to secure the dogs, the sheriff’s office says the man freed the boy from the ankle cuff and took off the chicken. Backup officers responded and searched the house.
Police removed five children, ages 14, 13, 11, 9 and 8, from the home, and began a criminal investigation. They took Harper into custody at the scene. The children are in the custody of Social Services in another county.
Carolina’s Healthcare System confirmed Saturday that Harper is an RN in the CMC Union emergency room. He has been placed on administrative leave. Officers booked both suspects into the Union County Jail. Harper is being held under a $500,000 secured bond. Larson’s bond is set at $525,000.
Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey called the incident shocking. “I can assure you that we have only just begun our investigation into what has happened, and we will pursue it to its fullest extent,” he said. Saturday afternoon, neighbors reacted to the arrests.
“That’s some sick people,” said Harry Wallace, who lives across the street. “Sick and ungodly bunch.”
Gene Wallace, who lives at the same house, was shocked to hear his neighbor was a DSS supervisor charged with such a serious crime. “It was beyond surprise,” he said. “Makes you wonder what our county officials do in their spare time.”
Gene Wallace said the family was reclusive, living at the end of a long gravel driveway with a variety of animals.
“Pigs, donkeys, llamas.. the whole gamut,” he said. “If we complain about their animals being on our property they get mad or they won’t come to the door when you go over there.” Harper and Larson face a court date on Monday.
Diana joined NBC Charlotte as weekend reporter in April of 2005 and spends each Saturday and Sunday bringing you the news.
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