State agrees to $1M settlement for boy who suffered abuse at hands of N.C. social worker

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 6:44 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) - The State of North Carolina has agreed to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit brought on behalf of the boy who was found chained to a porch with a dead chicken around his neck in 2013 at the home of Wanda Sue Larson and Dorian Harper.

Larson was a supervisor with the Union County Department of Social Services at the time of the discovery.

She and Harper were both charged with child abuse. Larson pleaded guilty and was released from jail a short time later.

Harper was convicted and sent to prison for roughly five years. He was released in February 2020, prison records show.

The couple fostered the boy found chained to the porch along with four other children.

Previous: Boy found chained to porch with chicken around neck speaks out for first time

WBTV has previously identified the boy chained to the porch as Michael and has not revealed his identity. He is now an adult.

Earlier this month, he signed a settlement agreement with the state to resolve a legal claim that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services - through the Gaston County and Union County departments of social services - did not provide adequate oversight of the Larson-Harper home while they fostered Michael and the other children.

In previous interviews with WBTV, Michael detailed other abuse inside the home, including being handcuffed and chained to a railroad tie and locked in a room.

At the time he and the other children were rescued from the home, Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey said the house was filthy.

WBTV has previously detailed other physical and sexual abuse that took place inside the home. The sexual abuse allegations have never been fully investigated or prosecuted by the district attorney.

Document: Click here to read the complaint and settlement agreement

Court records previously obtained by the station show DSS was called to the home at least twice before Michael was discovered chain to the porch.

The settlement released both county DSS agencies as well as NCDHHS from any further liability in the case. The money will be paid into a special fund, which will make ongoing payments to Michael.

Previous: Report: Union County DSS mishandled cases

Jay Trehy, an attorney that represented Michael in the lawsuit, said the settlement will help provide for the future needs of a person who will live with the lasting consequences of having been failed by the state as a child.

“The problem is as a system they didn’t recognize that they were repeatedly stepping outside the process in order to accommodate this individual,” Trehy said, referring to the special treatment given to Larsen by the Gaston and Union County DSS agencies.

Trehy noted that medical care and psychiatric support to help him process the abuse Michael suffered for years ended when he turned 18.

“He’s going to try to be a normal kid and a normal person, but he’s got much to overcome,” Trehy said. “You know, he’s back with people who love him and that was missing for his entire life almost.”

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