CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Handcuffed and shackled to a block of steel, the young boy would brace himself when he heard footsteps outside his bedroom door. He knew that once the grown-ups entered, the abuse would begin.
For years, he was whipped with belts, his face was burned with electrical wires and his fingers were broken with pliers — all to “teach him a lesson.” The abusers, who have since pleaded guilty, were his legal guardian — a supervisor with the Department of Social Services in Union County, North Carolina — and her longtime boyfriend, an emergency room nurse.
The abuse ended in November 2013 after police discovered the boy in handcuffs, chained to the front porch of the house with a dead chicken hung around his neck.
When police entered the roach-infested house “covered with urine and animal feces,” they found something else: four other children, ages 7 to 14, who had been adopted by the couple over the years. They were removed and placed in protective custody.
All were abused, but authorities say the boy bore the brunt of the couple’s rage.
“I was scared to death,” the boy, now 13, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I thought I wouldn’t survive.”
The AP is not naming the boy because of the nature of the abuse.
Three months after Wanda Sue Larson and her boyfriend Dorian Harper were sentenced, the boy is telling his story. Larson was released from prison in April, just nine days after pleading guilty to child abuse charges. Now, the boy wants everyone to know she didn’t serve enough time.
“I want her to be in jail longer,” he says.
His mother agrees.
“It’s ridiculous,” his mother said. The AP isn’t identifying the mother, to avoid indirectly identifying her son.
Jeff Gerber is founder of the Justice for All Coalition, which organized protests against the plea deal that led to Larson’s release. He said there is widespread outrage over Larson’s lenient sentence.
Harper, 58, was sentenced to up to 10
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