More details emerged yesterday in the case of Wanda Larson, the Department of Social Services supervisor in Union County, North Carolina (south of Charlotte) who is accused of abusing four children living with her--four adopted kids and one foster child. The abuse was only discovered on Friday morning, when an animal control deputy trying to chase down a stray pig found the foster child cuffed to a porch rail and shivering. They arrested her husband, Dorian Harper, that morning; Larson was arrested later that day. Yesterday, the local sheriff said that when his men entered that house on Friday, they found the kids living in absolutely disgusting conditions.
Dozens of chickens, turkeys, geese, and even a peahen roamed the property among junked cars, bicycles, and appliances. Deputies fed two llamas and a horse that shared a pen behind the house.Watch the full story from WCNC-TV in Charlotte here (sorry, it won't embed).
"As bad as you think that house was on the outside, that's probably the cleanest part of that place," said Sheriff Eddie Cathey Sunday.
He said the smell inside the house took his breath away, where five children lived among dogs and feces.
The smell still lingered in the yard Sunday.
"There's no reason, no thinking of a 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," said Cathey.
Sheriff Cathey said all five children in the home slept on the floor in a single bedroom, where the foster child was regularly handcuffed to a piece of railroad to keep him from running away.
Cathey also told CNN that there were feces on the floor and no running water. He also said the kids, who are now being cared for by a social services agency in another county since a DSS supervisor is involved, were hungry out of their minds when they were pulled out of that house. He looked like he was trying hard--very hard--to keep his composure. It's hard to blame him. Larson makes over $54,000 a year as a supervisor with Union County DSS' child protection unit, while Harper probably makes somewhere around $30-50,000 as an emergency room nurse at Carolinas Medical Center-Union. Simply put, there is nada, zip, zero excuse for the conditions that Cathey describes here. I know people who make half what these two make between them and yet treat their kids better than this.
Larson and Harper are currently in jail on a combined million dollars bond, though Larson's bond is slightly higher. While both are charged with child abuse, false imprisonment and animal cruelty, Larson is also charged with willful dereliction of her duties as a public official. They aren't the only ones with some explaining to do. Cathey told WSOC-TV in Charlotte that he intends to ask Union County DSS about the children's care. Specifically, he wants to know if DSS looked the other way because one of their own was caring for these kids. Several neighbors have since said that they saw things going on with the kids that made them wonder what was up, but they didn't have enough proof to call DSS.
Larson and Harper are both due in court later today. I haven't been able to calculate the minimum and maximum sentences they face, but if this is even half as egregious as this looks, they need to find a way to keep these two locked up for as long as legally possible.