Sheriff’s Office: Boy, 11, was routinely bound in Union County home

hschwab@charlotteobserver.comNovember 18, 2013 

Wanda Sue Larson, left, and Dorian Lee Harper

Wanda Sue Larson, left, and Dorian Lee Harper

The 11-year-old boy found handcuffed to a porch with a dead chicken around his neck Friday appears to have been routinely handcuffed to a piece of steel inside the Union County home, the county Sheriff’s Office said Sunday.

Capt. Cody Luke confirmed Sunday night that Sheriff Eddie Cathey also said feces were found on the floor of the Austin Road house: “The smell would take your breath,” Cathey said, calling it “terrible.”

Two neighbors on Sunday also described interactions with a boy they believed to be from that home, who approached their houses and begged for food.

Steve Mills said the land he and his wife live on abuts that of the boy’s foster parents, Dorian Harper and Wanda Larson, who have been charged with intentional child abuse inflicting serious injury, false imprisonment and animal cruelty.

The couple were in jail Sunday and scheduled to have a first court appearance Monday.

Harper and Larson have four adopted children, ranging in age from 8 to 14. They and the 11-year-old were placed in social services care outside Union County because Larson is a child protective services supervisor for that county’s Department of Social Services. She also was charged with willful failure to discharge her duty as a public official and has been suspended.

Mills said a boy came running up to his home in late July or early August, “crying and panicking, and said, ‘Mister, can I have something to eat?’” He said his wife was going to make him a sandwich when two other boys arrived. “They told me he was the newest one (and) said they were going to take him back.”

Mills knew the other boys from the Harper-Larson home: “All the boys come up on our land and play in an old building with rusted tools in it.” The only time he has spoken with Larson, he said, was when he called to tell her to make them stop doing that: “It’s dangerous, and my son and I do target practice” on the Millses’ 4 acres.

“She said she would take care of it. She did – for a few weeks. Then they started again.”

This boy “was real small. He looked the smallest one out of the bunch. ... We just assumed he was kind of scared, (being in a) new house, new area, new siblings.”

Animals from that household routinely come onto the Millses’ land, he said. “We’ve had donkeys and llamas ... and that pot-bellied pig comes up on our land. I left a message; they never did call. The pig come up here today.”

Another neighbor, who asked that her name not be used, said a boy appeared on her porch in May 2012, “purple” with cold, with no coat, saying he was hungry. When asked, he said he had no mother or father and didn’t know where he lived.

She brought him inside and fed him a sandwich: “It didn’t take him 10 seconds to eat it,” she said. He told her he was 10 years old, and that he had slept in her barn, behind her house, the night before. When she told him she would take him home, she said, he answered: “No. I want to stay here.”

Her daughter called 911, she said, and a sheriff’s deputy came out, spoke with the boy, made a phone call, then told him she’d take him home. “He didn’t refuse. He just went with her.”

The neighbor said the deputy let her know she had returned him to his foster parents and said the man insisted the boy hadn’t been missing more than 30 minutes. The neighbor believes it was the Harper-Larson home. “I know that’s where she took him (although) you can’t see the house from the road.”

Mills echoed that. “You can’t see their house from the road, or even from my house. So I don’t know if they feed or take care of the animals. ... They had a turkey. It got hit by a car last week.”

A Sheriff’s Office representative said no one could comment further on Sunday night.

Staff writer Elizabeth Arriero contributed.

Schwab: 704-358-5250

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