A Union County activist is planning a courthouse protest Saturday over this week’s plea deal for a former child protective services supervisor in an abuse case involving a boy shackled to her porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck.
On Tuesday, Wanda Sue Larson was sentenced to up to 17 months in jail. She was arrested in November 2013 after a sheriff’s deputy encountered the 11-year-old boy on the porch.
Larson, who has served about 16 1/2 months in jail, is likely to be released next Wednesday, Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey said.
Larson’s live-in boyfriend, Dorian Harper, also pleaded guilty in the case, and admitted to administering much of the abuse, including twisting the boy’s finger with a pair of pliers and burning his face with an electrical wire. He was sentenced to up to 10 1/2 years in prison.
Jeff Gerber, founder of The Justice For All Coalition, called Larson’s deal “ludicrous.” His group advocates for laws protecting children, and helped push for “Kilah’s Law,” which increases sentences in severe child abuse cases in North Carolina.
“People are furious and in disbelief that Wanda Larson was given such a lenient sentence,” Gerber said. “I couldn’t believe that the district attorney’s office would consider such a golden parachute of a plea deal.”
The protest is planned for noon Saturday at the county courthouse in downtown Monroe.
District Attorney Trey Robison declined to comment.
Robison has said he agreed to plea deals for Harper and Larson primarily to spare the children involved in the case from being re-victimized by having to testify. The children’s testimony was crucial to the case, he has said.
Larson was the 11-year-old boy’s legal guardian and had adopted four other children ages 7 to 14 living in the home at the time of the arrest.
Gerber said the children should have been allowed to testify so they could get justice in the case.
Indian Trail Mayor Michael Alvarez, who has been critical of the county’s social services operations, said he agreed with Gerber’s concerns. Alvarez said he fielded about 10 calls Tuesday from people upset over the plea deal.
“I’m highly disappointed that she is being let go with such a light sentence,” he said.
Larson was not home for much of the abuse but did not seek medical attention for the boy. And prosecutors said she was “part of the process” when the boy was chained to a steel railroad track in a locked room at night.
Larson pleaded guilty to two felonies and two misdemeanors that carried a maximum penalty of 37 months. She also had agreed to testify against Harper, and had cooperated with investigators.
She will be put on probation for 5 1/2 years. She will undergo a mental health evaluation and will be prohibited from having contact with the children while on probation.
Cathey called the case “probably as sad a case that I’ve seen come through our system. The children were the definition of abused children.”