Sheriff describes squalid conditions at handcuffed foster child’s home

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(CNN) -- Living conditions at the home where a 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.

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9 comments

    • Maria Hill

      Thank you Terry Robert’s for not looking the other way. As far as the neighbor’s go… they took what a small child said ” I am starving and can I come in” as nothing of concern just makes me sick. Never under estimate the words of a child. As far as DSS goes they will come out with a defense such as… we never suspected anything and all of our visit’s were WNL. They are most likely scrambling around the office to add, edit and modify their notes to make it look like they were doing their jobs. Obviously… this supervisor Wanda Larson did her own review’s and f/u’s concerning those kids and the department stayed mum and allowed it to happen. People… this is where your tax dollar’s are going. To help support these scams and criminal’s. Every single day I read at least 3-5 episodes of children be raped and murdered while in the care of DSS, CPS, DCYF by foster caregiver’s in the USA. This has been going on for decades and is only getting worse. DISGUSTING !!! FOLLOW THE MONEY……………

  • Betty

    What in the world is wrong with people….these were a social worker and an ER nurse!???! They should know better!! Shame on them!! I hope they are both convicted and put away for a long time. They should never, ever be allowed to have contact with any children again!!

  • sealba65

    I don’t understand the neighbor who didn’t report a crying hungry child. That sickens me. When in doubt let the authorities figure it out. How stupid yo buy “he’s just new here”. New has nothing to do with starving. So stupid#

  • mom of faith

    Heartbreaking that people can be this way to other human, let alone children that came into their care because already unfit or? parents/family. Their jobs they went to everyday, just as if they were every day good people. Evil wicked people! do these things! My prayers go to these poor children.

  • joe

    These people should have the same thing done to them, (an eye for an eye). Prison is too good for them they get three square meals a day, a warm bed, clean clothes, library, weight room, and free medical care, not to mention they have free access to internet, did these children have any of this? discusting, appauling, mean, and evil, trust no one