Dorian Lee Harper, a North Carolina social services supervisor, and Wanda Sue Larson, an emergency-room nurse, were arrested Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, after an 11-year-old boy was found handcuffed to a porch at the home of the couple in Monroe, N.C. The boy was reportedly a foster child and had a dead chicken hanging from his neck. He was discovered around 9:30 a.m., shivering in frigid temperatures by a deputy searching for a loose pig, Capt. Ronnie Whitaker told NBC News.
A Union County sheriff's deputy had responded to a complaint of swine roaming a resident's yard in Monroe, according to the report. Dorian Lee Harper, the boy's foster parent, emerged from the house and asked the deputy why he was there, Whitaker said. The deputy asked the man for identification. At that time another child opened the door, releasing several dogs that chased the deputy back to his car.
Additional deputies responded and a search of the entire home was conducted. Officers found five children, ages 14, 13, 11, 9 and 8. Harper and Wanda Sue Larson, both 57, had adopted four of the children. They were fostering the fifth--the child handcuffed to the porch, Sheriff Eddie Cathey said.
Harper is a supervisor with the Union County Department of Social Services, and Cathey said his deputies also had a good working relationship with Larson. He said that both suspects were “well-respected” in their professions.
Larson was not home at the time of the incident, but was arrested when she arrived later at the sheriff's office, according to officials.
The Union County sheriff's office says it appears the 11-year-old boy was routinely handcuffed in the home.
A neighbor said the children in the home "looked pitiful," according to the Gazette. Joyce Bigham says she lives across the street, but Harper’s house is set back and isn't visible.
Bigham says she and her husband saw the children only when they ran into the street to retrieve their dogs. She describes them as dressed like orphans.
Sheriff's Capt. Cody Luke told The Charlotte Observer on Sunday that human waste was found on the home's floor.
"It's shocking to see how they lived," Sheriff Cathey said. "The conditions were horrible. Trash, filth, animals and animal waste inside and outside the home. You could barely breathe inside that house." He said he is trying to determine how long the abuse has been going on.
Sheriff Cathey said that, because of the ongoing investigation, he could not disclose whether Harper could explain why the boy was handcuffed to the porch and a dead chicken was hanging on his neck.
Carolina's Healthcare System confirmed Saturday that Harper has been placed on administrative leave, NBC station WCNC of Charlotte reported.
All the children were taken into custody by a social services department from a neighboring county, Cathey said.
Both parents are charged with intentional child abuse, inflicting serious injury, false imprisonment and cruelty to animals. Larson also is charged with willful failure to discharge her duty as a public official.
"This investigation has only just begun," Cathey told WTSP. "We are fortunate that we were called. Sooner or later this situation could have ended in a child's death."
Larson's bail was set at $525,000 and bail for Harper was $500,000, Both are scheduled to appear in court on Monday.