Sheriff describes handcuffed child’s living conditions

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UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Living conditions at the home where an 11-year-old was handcuffed by the ankle to a post on the front porch, with a dead chicken around his neck, were so bad that a North Carolina sheriff said it was “an environment you wouldn’t want to walk through, much less live in.”

“It was filthy, feces on the floor, holes in the wall,” Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey said. “The bathroom, you could see from outside of the hall into the bathroom. Sink was trashed. No running water.”

CNN’s Nick Valencia said the house, located south of Monroe, had piles of garbage and abandoned and rusted-out vehicles in the yard. He also said the area had an overwhelming smell of urine and feces.

“As bad as you think that house was on the outside, that’s probably the cleanest part of that place,” Cathey said Sunday.

The 11-year-old boy and four other children, ages 8, 9, 13 and 14, were removed from the home. Authorities learned about the situation after a deputy responded Friday to a complaint about a hog at a neighboring house saw the boy wearing a T-shirt and jeans shivering outside.

Wanda Sue Larson, a supervisor with the Union County Department of Social Services, and Dorian Lee Harper, an emergency room nurse at CMC-Union in Monroe, face charges of intentional child abuse inflicting serious injury, false imprisonment, and cruelty to animals.

Larson also faces charges of willful failure to discharge her duty as a public official. Cathey said Larson has worked with his agency, as well as others around Union County.

Harper reportedly lived at the residence with Larson, who was not present at the time of Friday’s incident. They had adopted four of the children and were serving as foster parents for the 11-year-old.

Cathey said there was a room where the 11-year-old was cuffed overnight to a 3-foot piece of railroad. The sheriff said four of the children, including the 11-year-old, slept on blankets in the room.

Neighbor Steve Mills recounted an incident from the past summer when one of the children came up to him.

“The littlest one was running up the street, crying, hollering, he was panicking, come up here ‘Mister, can I have something to eat, I’m starving. Can I come in please?” My wife was going to go in there and make him a sandwich if he’s hungry,” he said.

“We didn’t think anything of it because the other two boys came up, saying “He’s new.” So we just figured he was just getting used to the area and being with a new family and his new siblings and so we thought nothing of it.”

Cathey said all of the kids appeared to be underweight for their ages, and they were hungry after being removed from the home.

“We took them immediately and bought them pizza. That’s what they wanted was pizza and that’s what they got,” he said.

Cathey said Harper has requested an attorney and Larson is cooperating with authorities.

Harper and Larson are expected to appear in court on Monday morning.

The children are in the custody of an outside agency.

Data pix.


  • Linda Burgess

    This is horrible. Those poor children. I hope they are put with very good families. As for the 2 women….tie um up with some roadkill around their necks for a while. Then lock them up and throw away the keys.

  • t w

    So what I am wondering is who else is going to be charged? Because obviously someone was not doing their job? How were these two monsters allowed to adopt children? What about home inspections? This child was a foster chils where is his social worker???? Those two monsters are not the only ones who hold blame in this terrible situation!

    • Wendy Vance

      I was wondering the same thing…How in the world could they have been allowed to adopt 1 child let alone 4…You are correct in your statement, that someone wasn’t doing their job. And how in the world did they not raise red flags at their place of employment…if they had no running water, by God, they had to smell…come on now…a supervisor for DSS and a nurse. Did the whole county of Union turn a blind eye? WAKE UP people…if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…chances are it probably is a duck….DUH………………..

      • Missy

        Exactly!! I’m guessing because the scum was a supervisor at DSS, she was able to get by on the inspections, etc. Maybe make them not happen.

  • Mark Stabler

    This man is a nurse in an emergency room and the woman is a supervisor with the Department of Social Services that suppose to oversee the care of children. HOW did these two adopt and children and how were the approved as Foster Parents with this kind of living conditions. I hope a full scale investigation will be conducted to determine just how that happened and action taken against whom ever oked these people to care for children. Kids hungry and obviously these are not poor people..but they are not fit to care for anyone’s child.

  • concerned

    How did they get approved to adopt or to become foster parents…..where was the house checks and medical checks on the kids…DSS should be held accountable for this as well…

  • Lynn

    People that this woman worked with need to be investigated. It is obvious no follow up was ever done ! Certainly there is a special place in hell for people like these two. Hopefully they get there soon.

  • Jean Heath

    She worked, at least I hope it is quickly past tense, for DSS. A supervisor no less. That says a lot. Probably how she got under the radar. The other a nurse no less. Proves you just never know and can’t tell a book by it’s cover. Ashamed it’s my home state.

    • Breaks my heart

      Please don’t say “ashamed of your home state”. The 2 people that abused these children are evil, period. The case workers that were suppose to look out for the well being needs to be questioned AND any other case they are responsible for needs to be reviewed, but please don’t tie the act of a few evil people to the name of North Carolina. We have great loving & caring people in this state.

      • Layle Rogers

        Everyone wonders why these things happen but these agencies are the first to suffer staffing cuts whenever there are budget issues. She may have supervised the people who are assigned to oversee it. The caseloads these workers are assigned are staggering. It is not surprising that these issues keep coming to light. There is no way to oversee all the kids who need help. It is truly a sad commentary on our oversight of these poor kids who go from a bad situation to an even worse place in some cases with no one to help them. It is sickening.

  • kelly schwartz

    See…id b n jail cuz if i ever witness such a horrid crime on ANY child i would have childrens justice immediately an leave wateverr is left with th police…obviously the children cudnt wait to b rescued by authorities whm may or may not help thm! In a childs best interest, huh? Wen u ppl gonna wake up an see th gov IS NOT on our side!

  • Lara Taylor

    As is necessary with almost every MyFox8 article: “Authorities learned about the situation after a deputy responded Friday to a complaint about a hog at a neighboring house saw the boy wearing a T-shirt and jeans shivering outside.” <– Hire a copyeditor.

    That said, how in the hell, in a country with an adoption process as convoluted as ours, did these two scumbags adopt all these children? And what kind of lunatic handcuffs a child to a front porch with a dead chicken hanging off of him? How is this reality?

  • Horrified

    “Disgusting” just doesn’t cover it. This is inexcusable! I cannot imagine the sheer terror these innocent children must have faced daily. It’s sickening to think these people were employed in positions where people’s care was entrusted to them and they were abusing FIVE CHILDREN in their home! “Handcuffed to porch, shivering?” “Dead chicken?” Seriously, THEY should be tortured just like they tortured those children. Then throw them in prison and leave them there. No, wait…..they’d be too well taken care of. Make them live exactly like they made those children live day in and day out, for the rest of their lives!

  • Lorie Howell

    I can’t wait for this couple to meet their fellow inmates in jail. I hear they don’t take kindly to child abuse.
    I live in North Caroina and believe me we love children. This is an isolated case.
    I can’t think of any punishment that would be too harsh for this couple.
    And they were home schooling, so the little kids had no chance to ask for help.
    I pray the little kids will get the best care available from here on.
    God Bless Them.

  • Jennifer

    God bless these children! I am so glad they were removed from this situation. These two should be locked up forever! I also believe the person who works for the state and placed these children with this family needs to be punished as well. How do you allow this to happen?

  • Sharon Norwood

    Please put these people in a dungeon and never let them see the light of day. I hope these children find a home with love and caring. I hope the managers of these people are held accountable for the situation. How many more cases are there? How can adults treat children like this?

  • Cecil Williams

    To do a fair report, include the inspection reports of the authorities in charge. This one size all reporting is part of the problem today. Did our tax dollars support this! How many visits were reported and never completed? Did these children go to school? Did they fiction normally? Where they in proper dres? Did they look normal, well maintained? Did they attend regularly?

    Provide a full report. A ckichen around the boy gets quick reviews of shallow reporting.

    • Lorie Howell

      Not in the Boondocks, property that has owners who did not want the world to see them. Try buying 30 acres in their area, better be of wealth, or have a great line of credit.

  • kay

    I know I did not like social workers that much because my son lost his eyesight at a home under the supervision of social services in NC.

  • Transcender

    I believe the one-bullet solution would come into play here. One for each of them. I hope they do a thorough investigation, because it seems it would be easy for a low-life POS nurse to slip a few drugs from the ER to take home to use on the children to keep them quiet. They clearly were using the woman’s status and job as a supervisor for Social Services to keep home visits from happening. If anyone else in that Social Services department knew of the conditions the children were tortured to endure, then they should be charged as well, and lose their job.

    • Lorie Howell

      I agree. This needs an investigation, got to be a paper trail of the adoptions, or foster care.
      I don’t want them to die yet, i want them to go through the prison system. If the stories I have heard are true, they will wishing for death. I hear that inmates really hate child abuse, well this is child abuse and well beyond. Wait tlll a prosecutor presents his case, I believe we will be even more shocked.

  • Tina Brill

    I feel bad for the children. I pray the children recover both physically andmentally and learn to trust again. I will pray for them.

  • Eric Koch

    Monsters gravitate toward positions of authority where they can practice their sadism on others. All positions of authority are rife with this type wickedness. This simple fact is why such persons have to be held to a higher standard of conduct and experience enhanced disciplinary action when they inevitably commit heinous crimes. Crimes made worse by the violation of public trust. We should never trust anyone in a position of authority. Question Authority. Scrutinize their actions. Examine public servants under microscopes and punish them severely when they are found lacking. These monsters should be separated from society until death.
    The reality is we live in a society that protects and coddles public servants. They’ll get off with a slap on the wrist and a pension. They’ll probably go into law enforcement or corrections…. and in a day or a week you’ll cower and scrape at the feet of another just like these begging for mercy from a practicing sadist in a position of authority over you. Can you say ” Sir Yes Sir” ” May I kiss your boot sir”

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