MONROE, N.C. -- Union County sheriff’s investigators and animal control officers returned to the home Sunday where an 11-year-old boy had been found shivering and handcuffed to a porch rail with a dead chicken around his neck Friday morning.
They spent several hours working on the property, including feeding and caring for the many animals left there, and even disposing of the chicken that had been left on a barrel once it was removed from the child’s neck.
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.
Sheriff Eddie Cathey said two dogs had already been removed.
Wanda Sue Larson, a DSS supervisor, and Dorian Lee Harper, an emergency room nurse at CMC-Union, lived at the house with their four adopted children and the foster child the animal control officer found on the porch.
Both Larson and Harper are charged with child abuse, false imprisonment, and animal cruelty. They’re in the Union County jail under more than a million dollars combined bond.
"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.
Neighbors couldn’t hide their disgust as more details of the children’s conditions were revealed Sunday.
"Ugh,” said Jenny Wallace, who lives across the street. “I was devastated, that this type of thing is going on in this neighborhood."
Wallace said the family was reclusive, and she rarely saw the children. But Friday morning, she met one.
"I saw a little boy come up to my house and knock on my door and ask me did I see his pig," said Wallace. “He didn't look like he’d been abused or mistreated in any way."
That missing pig is what led another neighbor to call animal control, bringing out the officer who found the handcuffed child.
"Certainly our deputy was shocked,” said Cathey. “And when we talked to him and realized what had happened, we were very proud that he went the extra step in just a small animal case that he was investigating and discovered this child sitting there on the porch -- just pitiful."
Larson and Harper have first appearances scheduled in Union County court on Monday.