At least two children have said they were sexually abused while living with then-Union County DSS supervisor Wanda Sue Larson and her boyfriend Dorian Harper.
The claims, which were first mentioned by the children immediately after they were rescued from the Larson home and reiterated in greater detail in late 2015, include allegations that one DSS worker called “sadistic and horrific.”
WBTV first learned of the allegations in an exclusive interview in May 2015 with the boy who was found with the dead chicken around his neck, who we refer to as Michael.
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“Dorian used to do sexual stuff to me,” the boy said at the time. “(Wanda Sue) abused me too and she knew Dorian was abusing me, too. She didn’t stop it. She just added on to it.”
Since the boy’s interview with WBTV, therapists and counselors have worked with Michael to uncover more details of what he and other children who were in the Larson home allege happened to them.
The act of a child reporting an act of physical or sexual abuse to a therapist or caseworker is known in the social work field as a ‘disclosure’. Once a disclosure is made by a child, the alleged abuse is required to be reported to the proper authorities and investigated.
As more time passes and the children receive more counseling and therapy, more details of the alleged abuse comes to light. But that hasn’t been enough to bring the allegations to court.
Both Larson and Harper have pleaded guilty to felony child abuse charges but neither have faced criminal charges related to the sexual assault allegations.
Details of sexual abuse shared during therapy
Michael disclosed specific details of sexual abuse he said he suffered at the hands of Harper and Larson to his therapist more than two years ago.
The therapist, with the boy’s permission, shared the details of his account with his mother. His mother recorded the conversation, in which she is heard audibly reacting to the gruesome details of what her son said he was subjected to.
The details are graphic.
“He (Dorian Harper) made him touch him and he touched (Michael),” the therapist told the boy’s mother. “He would inject their penises with growth hormones.”
The boy’s mother is heard gasping in shock as the therapist shares the details.
“He would line up all the boys in a row and he’d watch as he inserted the syringe and watch their penises grown,” the therapist said.
Even as the therapist shared some graphic details of what the children said happened inside the home, there are other details she acknowledged counselors and authorities may never learn.
The therapist told Michael’s mother that Harper sedated some of the children and that some of the children were unable to recall what happened to them.
“From our understanding, there was a lot of – in their bedroom, they had a lot of porn and they would make the kids watch it and they would be in the room with them,” the therapist said.
That conversation between Michael’s mother and the boy’s therapist happened in the summer of 2015. At the time, the therapist said she and other counselors were working to put the information together to present to the Union County Sheriff’s Office, according to a recording of the conversation obtained by WBTV.
Multiple children make detailed disclosure
The children taken from Larson’s home were re-interviewed by forensic therapists at a facility in Davidson County in late 2015, WBTV has confirmed, roughly two years after the children were rescued.
Documents obtained by WBTV show the new round of interviews were prompted by a child other than Michael making a new, detailed allegation of sexual abuse.
“One of the children is now admitting that there was more abuse in other forms,” a Davidson County DSS worker wrote in an email to Michael’s mom explaining why the new round of forensic interviews were necessary.
In that same email, the DSS worker said detectives with the Union County Sheriff’s Office and a representative of the Union County District Attorney’s Office would be on hand to view the interviews.
The DSS worker said the new interviews could result in charges for Larson and Harper related to sexual abuse.
“If any of these children disclose what was reported in this new report, there remains the possibility that Ms. Larson and Mr Harper (sic) may face additional criminal charges which could extend Mr Harper’s incarceration and lead to additional criminal charges against Ms. Larson,” the DSS worker wrote.
A month later, after the children were interviewed, the same DSS worker emailed Michael’s mother again, calling the abuse her son had suffered “sadistic and horrific.”
He also said Michael reported more details about the sexual abuse.
“He provided more information regarding these recent allegations than any of the other children who came that day,” the DSS worker wrote.
Mother waiting for justice
Michael’s mother said she has run out of patience for the Sheriff and prosecutors to bring charges related to the allegations made by her son and the other children.
“I haven’t heard anything after that about what happened with those allegations,” she said in a recent interview with WBTV. “You know, it’s time to hold them accountable.”
WBTV has confirmed that detectives and a prosecutor were present for the forensic interviews in which multiple children reported they suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Harper and Larson. But it is not clear that the Union County Sheriff’s Office has conducted an investigation beyond that.
A spokesman for Sheriff Eddie Cathey did not respond to an interview request. An attorney for UCSO provided information showing the sexual abuse allegations had been reported to the department but refused to provide the front page of a police report—typically provided by law enforcement agencies across North Carolina—that would show when the Sheriff’s Office began investigating the claims.
The Sheriff’s Office is the only agency tasked with investigating the claims. The Union County District Attorney’s Office does not employ any investigators and law enforcement in Davidson County doesn’t have jurisdiction over the matter since the allegations involve activity that reportedly took place in Union County.
Cathey, the Union County Sheriff, told Michael’s mother that none of the children had made any detailed allegations in a conversation she recorded in July 2015, the same time period where her son’s therapist detailed the sexual abuse for her.
“We don’t have anybody that says, you know, he did it to me, she did it to me or it was done to me,” Cathey said in the July 2015 conversation, according to the recording obtained by WBTV.
Union County District Attorney Trey Robison did not dismiss the possibility of new charges related to the allegations of sexual abuse in a recent interview with WBTV.
“I can tell you that if we are presented with specific, credible and admissible evidence, that we would be motivated to pursue any charges, wherever they may lead,” Robison said.
Robison said the allegations, if true, are very serious.
But, so far, the veteran prosecutor said, his office has not received enough evidence from investigators that would make a solid, air-tight case upon which to bring charges.
“We are entirely driven by whatever the evidence is that’s produced during an investigation,” Robison, who relies on evidence obtained by the Sheriff’s Office, said. “The appropriateness of any given prosecution is going to depend entirely on what the evidence is.”
There is no statute of limitations for felony crimes—including sexual abuse—in North Carolina, meaning Robison could bring new charges against Harper and Larson if or when they felt they had enough evidence to make them stick in court.
“I would say the possibility remains open for future charges. It is not uncommon, particularly with children, to make delayed disclosures as children mature, as children benefit from therapeutic treatment, that sort of thing. It’s not uncommon at all,” he said.
‘Wanda Sue is out and about free while my son is struggling’
As Robison waits to see whether there is enough evidence to bring new charges related to the sexual abuse allegations, Michael’s mom said her son is suffering.
“It’s something that they’re always going to struggle with. Meanwhile, you know, Wanda Sue is out and about, free, living her life while my son’s over here struggling,” she said. “It’s not fair.”
WBTV was able to track Larson down to a home on a secluded lot in rural Union County. She declined to speak with a reporter who visited her home and asked for an interview to discuss questions about how she treated her foster children.
Michael’s mother hopes the renewed attention on her son’s case and the revelation of the sexual assault allegations will bring justice for her son.
“Hopefully this helps in some type of way, you know?” she asked. “Mr. Cathey will get off his butt, you know, and pursue charges like you would anybody else!”?