Union Co. child abuse defendant may subpoena co-defendant to testify

Dorian Harper

The defendant in a child abuse case involving a boy found shackled with a dead chicken tied around his neck may try to force his co-defendant to testify for him.

Dorian Harper’s lawyer, Randolph Lee, made a motion Tuesday morning in Union County Superior Court to ensure that co-defendant Wanda Sue Larson remains in county jurisdiction for the duration of the trial. Lee said the defense may subpoena her to be a witness for Harper.

Judge Brad Long granted the request.

Prosecutors had previously said they might call Larson, a former county social services supervisor, as one of their witnesses. She is Harper’s longtime girlfriend and was the boy’s legal guardian.

Harper, 58, and Larson were arrested in November 2013 after a sheriff’s deputy found an 11-year-old shackled to their Monroe-area porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck.

Prosecutors will deliver their opening statement Wednesday morning. Lee said he would defer his opening remarks.

It took two days to finish seating a jury of six men, six women and three alternates. Long told them the case probably will take more than a week.

Prosecutors asked potential jurors how they disciplined their children, whether they or anyone they knew was a child abuse victim and whether they were or knew anyone who was adopted or in foster care.

In a rare moment of levity, one potential juror told the court, “I spanked my daughter once. Then she bit me, and I never spanked her again.”

One potential juror was excused Tuesday after he told the judge that while at lunch someone walked by and made profane comments about what jurors should do in the case.

Larson and Harper face charges that include felony child abuse, false imprisonment and maiming for alleged abuse of the boy between August and November 2013.

The boy and four other children living in the home, who were 7 to 14 years old, were placed into social services custody outside of the county. Larson had adopted the other children. The children are expected to testify, as is the deputy who encountered the shackled boy.

Prosecutors told potential jurors that some of their young witnesses might not be able to recall exact dates and times.

Larson, 58, faces a trial in mid-April. Prosecutors have declined to comment on whether Larson might get a plea deal.

She was transferred to a Raleigh prison for undisclosed medical reasons last year but was returned to Union County Jail in mid-January. Her appearance has markedly changed since she entered jail, mug shots show; for instance, her hair is noticeably grayer.

After her arrest, Larson was fired from her county job. Harper also lost his job as an emergency room nurse at a Monroe hospital. Larson remains in custody under $520,000 bail. Harper’s bail is $500,000.

Bell: 704-358-5696;

Twitter: @abell