Indictment details alleged abuse of boy found chained to porch with chicken around neck

cwootson@charlotteobserver.comDecember 9, 2013 

Wanda Sue Larson, left, and Dorian Lee Harper

Wanda Sue Larson, left, and Dorian Lee Harper

A month after Union County authorities discovered a boy chained to a porch with a dead chicken tied to his neck, a former social services supervisor and her boyfriend have been indicted on child abuse charges.

The indictment returned by a grand jury in Superior Court on Monday against Wanda Sue Larson and Dorian Harper provides for the first time a detailed look at some of the repeated abuse investigators believe was heaped on the 11-year-old boy between August and November. The couple had legal guardianship of the youth.

According to the indictment: The boy was chained to a piece of railroad track in his room. Once, while trying to escape, he broke his wrist.

Harper once cut the boy’s face with a knife, according to the indictment, leaving a 2-inch scar. He’s also accused of using an electrical wire to burn the boy’s face near his eye. The boy was never taken to the hospital for treatment, the indictment stated.

The couple is accused of disabling the boy’s finger, leaving it permanently injured. As a result of an assault by the couple, the indictment states, a severe cut between his fingers got infected.

In a case that has garnered international headlines, Harper and Larson now face a combined 21 charges, including several counts of felony child abuse, assault with a deadly weapon and maiming. They were also indicted for cruelty to animals for not adequately feeding their orange Basset hound.

The couple’s attorneys could not be reached for comment late Monday.

A Union County deputy discovered the boy Nov. 15 at the Monroe-area home, his leg chained to the porch railing with a pair of handcuffs. The dead chicken was tied around his neck with a piece of twine.

On the morning the boy was found, temperatures in the area dipped below freezing.

Larson and Harper were arrested shortly afterward.

Because of her job as a child protective services supervisor for Union County, Larson also has been indicted for willful failure to discharge her duty as a public figure. She has since been fired and remains in the county jail on $520,000 bond.

Harper, who worked as an emergency room nurse at Carolinas Medical Center-Union in Monroe, has also lost his job. The charges indicate that investigators believe he committed most of the violent acts, but Larson failed to report them. He remained jailed Monday on $500,000 bond

Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey said he hadn’t seen the indictment late Monday and couldn’t comment on specifics. He told the Observer that the deputy who found the boy chained to the porch testified in front of a grand jury on Monday.

Five children ages 7 to 14 were taken from the rural Harper-Larson home after the arrests, and they now are under the care of Davidson County DSS. Larson had adopted the four other children who lived in the house. Staff writer Adam Bell and researcher Maria David contributed.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson

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