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Sheriff: Alleged abuse of foster child by DSS employee investigation "far from over"

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UNION COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -

Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey says the case of alleged abuse of a foster child, involving a Department of Social Services worker, is far from over.

Cathey says more information is coming in.

"We're trying to filter through that information," Cathey said. "We are trying to follow those leads. We are trying to get enough investigators on this case to manage it. We seem to be able to do that right now."

The Sheriff also says trained experts will talk to the five kids found inside Larson's home. They want more information.  The children are now outside the county in the care of another agency.

"We felt like it was better for them to settle down," the sheriff said. "In the environment they are in. Be comfortable and then we'll go back later this week."

According to county officials, Wanda Sue Larson and Dorian Lee Harper, both 57, were arrested Friday after a young boy was found handcuffed to the front porch of a home with a dead chicken tied around his neck.

The state Department of Health and Human Services tells WBTV Larson's licensure to be a foster parent expired back in 2010.  Many thought she was a foster parent.  The state now says that is not the case.  The state issued this statement about their involvement.

"DHHS will examine processes and procedures," Director of the Division of Social Services Wayne Black said, "To ensure Union County's Child Welfare program adheres to proper standards and protocols."

Officials told WBTV that Larson has been a Union County DSS employee since 2003 and currently is employed as a supervisor.  She was placed on investigatory suspension with no pay while Union County Deputies investigate the incident.

According to the Union County Sheriff's Office, a deputy was responding to an animal services complaint at a home along Austin Road when he saw the 11-year-old boy outside.

The boy, who deputies say was handcuffed at the ankle, also had a dead chicken hanging around his neck. The report states the young boy appeared to be shivering, as well.

Deputies conducted a search of the house and removed a total of five children from the home, all between the ages of eight and 14.

WBTV has learned that three of the children are related to one another. All of the children have been living with Larson for several years, family members told WBTV.

Larson and Harper appeared in district court on Monday morning and were assigned public defenders. Harper is being held under a $500,000 secured bond, while Larson's bond is set at $525,000.

Gaston County is also responding. Records show the last time Larson was a foster parent was in Gaston County.  Some thought Larson worked for Gaston County DSS, but officials say they have no record of Larson ever working for the county. Leaders say if the state wants to talk to them about Larson, they will cooperate.

Copyright 2013 WBTV. All rights reserved.

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