State legislator looks into foster care policies in NC

by: Jim Bradley Updated:

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UNION COUNTY, N.C. —

"This is not just a tragedy, this is a disaster," said North Carolina Rep. Craig Horn, a Republican from Union County.

Horn told Eyewitness News he feels compelled to do something after hearing Dorian Lee Harper and Wendy Sue Larson were arrested, accused of handcuffing an 11-year-old boy to the front porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck.

On Tuesday, Eyewitness News learned from the state that the boy was not a foster child. Sources tell Eyewitness News that he was under legal guardianship so the state wasn't required to check on him. Horn said that may need to change.

He said that may mean home visits and more transparency. He is on a fact-finding mission and is talking to other lawmakers, including the head of a committee looking at foster care and adoption in the state.

"I'm confident quite frankly, confident, that we are going to have some legislation evolve from this incident," said Horn.

Horn told Channel 9 he will be pushing hard for answers and continuing to speak with other lawmakers and the state. But he said he doesn't want to rush a new law or changes before he has all the facts.

"What went wrong? What made them get to this breaking point?" said a man named Michael as he spoke with Eyewitness News. He did not want to share last name, but told Channel 9 that he was adopted by Harper and Larson years ago. He says he lived in the home for a couple of years, while the 11-year-old was also there. He said he never saw any abuse.

He said he was adopted by Larson and Harper in 2000 after being a foster child for two years. "I pretty much fell in love with them," he said.

Yet the man admits there is a disconnect between his experience with Larson and Harper, and the criminal charges against them.

"I think to myself, 'What went wrong?' What made them get to this breaking point?" he said.

Up until 2011, the man said he lived in Larson's rural house along with other adopted and foster children, including the boy allegedly abused last week, who he remembers as troubled, cruel to animals and potentially violent.

"He once told me, face-to-face, 'I could get a machete and kill you in your sleep.' And this is when he was 8 years old," the man said.

At the same time the man who spoke with Eyewitness News on Tuesday said he never saw Larson or Harper abuse any child in their care.

Union County sheriff's deputies have said little about what might have prompted the boy to be handcuffed by Larson or Harper.

Despite his affection for his adoptive parents, he said he has no excuses for their alleged crimes.

"I don't condone it," he said. "They made their bed. Now they're going to lay in it. My main concern is for the children."

All five children living with Larson and Harper are now in DSS custody in another county.

Larson and Harper remain in the Union County jail.

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