by: Jenna Deery Updated:UNION COUNTY, N.C. —
Two parents accused of handcuffing their 11-year-old son to the front porch and putting a dead chicken around his neck remain in jail after appearing in court Monday.
Cindy Robbins said she is a cousin of the 11-year-old boy as well as two other adopted children in the home.
She said the children are more like nieces and nephews. She said she wanted to be in court to see what happened when the parents went before the judge.
Union County Sheriff’s deputies originally told Channel 9 on Friday the boy was a foster child, but on Tuesday officials with the Department of Social Services told Channel 9 the couple had legal guardianship over the boy and he was not part of the foster system.
Channel 9 cameras were rolling outside as vans brought Wanda Sue Larson and Dorian Harper to the Union County courthouse Monday morning.
Cameras were not allowed inside the courtroom.
The judge issued a $500,000 secured bond for Harper. He asked for a court-appointed attorney.
Larson was issued a $520,000 secured bond. She also asked for a court-appointed attorney.
The next court date for both is Jan. 7.
A sheriff's deputy found him while in the area on another call.
Robbins said Larson had mistreated the boy in the past.
"Wanda Sue Larson put this child on the phone and said, 'Tell your mother that because you have been bad you are no longer allowed to speak with your mother, you are not allowed to have a birthday, you are not allowed to have Christmas and you are not allowed to have any contact with any of your family or any of your cousins,'" Robbins said.
Family members said they have pictures of abuse they plan to share with the sheriff's office.
They said their complaints in the past fell on deaf ears.
The couple is also charged with animal cruelty. Deputies returned to the home Monday and removed nearly 100 animals from the property.
New details revealed about parents accused of handcuffing child
On Sunday night, Eyewitness News learned that detectives plan to question the Department of Social Services about the child's care.
Sheriff Eddie Cathey told Eyewitness News that his department will get answers from the Union County Department of Social Services.
Wanda Larson worked for DSS, but also told the state she homeschooled her five children.
Now, many local residents Eyewitness News spoke with said they have little confidence in the department of social services and do not want this type of incident to happen again.
'On Monday, DSS released a statement saying, "None of the five children in the home of Mr. Harper and Ms. Larson were placed by Union County during the time that Ms. Larson has been employed by the Union County Department of Social Services."
Read more: State DSS to review Union County policies
Eyewitness News also heard from a man on Sunday night who had an interaction with one of the children living at the couple's home, now wishing he had done something to help.
"The littlest one was coming up the street, crying and hollering. He was panicking. He come up, 'Mister can I have something to eat? I'm starving. Can I come in please?'" said Steve Mills.
Mills said if he had known months ago what he knows now about what investigators said went on at the home on Austin Road, he would have done something to help.
"We've heard but we never had proof or nothing. We always heard that they were mean to them," he said.
Mills said the proof came from when investigators arrested Dorian Harper and Wanda Larson Friday.
That is after an 11-year-old foster child was found handcuffed to a porch post with a dead chicken tied around his neck. Four other adopted children lived there, too.
Cathey said the children were often underfed.
Investigators also believe the couple would routinely chain a child to a piece of railroad rail found inside the home that was littered with animal feces.
"As bad as you think that house was on the outside, that's probably the cleanest part of that place," he said.
Investigators want to know if the Department of Social Services turned a blind eye to how Larson was treating the children.
"How did those adoptive kids get there, how did this get approved? Those are questions we want answered also and we'll get that as we move forward," said Cathey.
Mills has the question that many people want answered, "I guess that's the big question is 'Why?' Why did they do this?"
The sheriff said he may have to assign more detectives to the case to figure out the length of the abuse and if anyone else will be held accountable