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Child found handcuffed to porch with dead chicken around his neck

By Hilary Trenda
htrenda@charlotteobserver.com

A Union County social worker was one of two adults charged with intentional child abuse Friday after deputies found a child handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken around his neck.

Dorian Lee Harper and Wanda Sue Larson, both 57, have been charged with numerous offenses after a deputy discovered the child at 4116 Austin Road, south of Monroe, authorities said.

Larson is employed as a supervisor with Union County Department of Social Services. She and Harper had adopted four children and were serving as foster parents for a fifth child, officials said.

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,” Cathey said.

A deputy was responding to an animal services complaint at a neighboring home Friday when he walked up to Harper’s and Larson’s residence and saw a “10-12-year-old child secured to the front porch at the ankle, by what appeared to be a pair of handcuffs,” officials said.

“The child also had a dead chicken hanging around his neck and appeared to be shivering,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

Moments later a man appeared on the porch, and asked the deputy why he was there. The deputy asked for the man’s identification and why the child was handcuffed to the porch, officials said.

“The man produced a driver’s license, but then a child at the residence opened a door to the house releasing several large dogs that then accosted the officer,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

The deputy got in his vehicle and by the time the dogs were secured, “the man had removed the child from the porch and left the dead chicken on a barrel on the porch,” authorities said.

When backup arrived, deputies entered and searched the home and found five children, ages 8, 9, 11, 13 and 14, the Sheriff’s Office said. The children were removed from the home. Officers then began a criminal investigation, and the man was taken into custody at the scene.

Harper and Larson have both been charged with intentional child abuse inflicting serious injury, false imprisonment and cruelty to animals, authorities said.

Larson was not present when the children were discovered but is accused of being complicit in the ongoing mistreatment of the children, the Sheriff’s Office said. She was also charged with willful failure to discharge her duty as a public official.

The child handcuffed to the porch is the 11-year-old Harper and Larson had been fostering, authorities said. The children are now in custody of an undisclosed social services agency outside Union County.

Harper is being held under a $500,000 bond. Larson’s bond was set at $525,000. Both are being held at the Union County jail and are scheduled to appear in court on Monday.

Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda
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