NC couple held on bond after foster child found in sickening squalor

Couple cuffs son to porch, ties chicken around neck

Stunned North Carolina authorities on Monday described a stomach-churning scene of filth and squalor at the home where a pair of foster parents were charged with handcuffing a child to a porch with a dead chicken hanging on his neck.

The 11-year-old boy was found Friday morning by a Union County sheriff's deputy responding to an animal services complaint at a nearby farm when he saw the boy handcuffed and shivering.

The boy was living with foster parents Wanda Sue Larson, 57, and Dorian Lee Harper, also 57, on a property with four other adopted children and a gaggle of animals, including dozens of chickens, geese, turkeys, llamas and a horse, NBC station WCNC of Charlotte reported.

The couple were charged with intentional child abuse, inflicting serious injury, false imprisonment and cruelty to animals, according to a police report.

They asked for court-appointed attorneys Monday in Union County District Court and remained in custody, Harper on $500,000 bond and Larson $520,000 bond.

Their next hearing is set for Jan. 7.

Harper, an emergency room nurse, was arrested after the chance encounter with police, while Larson, who wasn't home at the time, was arrested later at the sheriff's office.

Larson was placed on suspension from her job as a supervisor with the Union County Department of Social Services. Because of her connection with the agency, the children — ages 14, 13, 11, 9 and 8 — were placed with social services agencies outside the county.

Police spent several hours working on the property Sunday, tending to many of the animals still there, WCNC reported.

Authorities said that the children lived in a single bedroom among dogs and feces. The child found last week was regularly handcuffed to a piece of railroad in the room, where he slept with on the floor, they said.

"As bad as you think that house was on the outside, that's probably the cleanest part of that place," Sheriff Eddie Cathey told WCNC.

"No ... common-sense person would think anyone living in those condition could adopt, not only a child — we wouldn't let them adopt an animal out of our animal shelter," Cathey said.

Sheriff's Capt. Ronnie Whitaker told WCNC that he had never seen a case like this one in his 27 years in law enforcement and that he was in "disbelief" that someone could treat children that way.

M. Alex Johnson of NBC News contributed to this report.

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