UNION COUNTY, N.C. -- The Union County Sheriff's Office says it previously contacted DSS about child welfare concerns at Wanda Sue Larson's house, but was told it didn't rise to the level of abuse or neglect.
Larson is the Union County DSS Child Protective Services Supervisor in charge of investigations who was charged Friday with child abuse, false imprisonment, animal cruelty and failing to discharge her duties as a public employee after deputies found an 11-year-old boy under her legal guardianship handcuffed to the porch with a dead chicken tied around his neck.
Larson's boyfriend, Dorian Harper, is also arrested and faces similar charges.
Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey says a handful of 911 hang-up calls brought deputies to Larson and Harper's house on Austin Road a handful of times from 2009-2013.
Cathey says deputies didn't know Larson worked as a local DSS supervisor; they never went inside the house and were often met outside.
"’We're fine, no problems, and the kids said they're fine, no problems,’" Cathey said, describing what deputies were told.
Investigators still contacted Union County DSS to evaluate living conditions.
Cathey later got a letter from DSS saying the complaint "does not meet statutory definition of abuse, neglect or dependency".
Larson's signature was not on the letter.
We don't know if the complaint about Larson crossed Larson's desk or if she supervised the woman who did sign it.
In the end, nothing else happened.
Fast forward to last Friday's arrest, where deputies found the boy shivering and the house filled with animal urine and feces.
Cathey says the criminal investigation could take a long time.
"It is leading us in a lot of directions, people calling me with rumors and some of them are good information, some are not," he said.
The other investigation has the state now in Union County and looking into whether any rules and regulations were broken.
Two dozen protesters, some with DSS battles of their own, aren't fans of the state investigating itself.
"We don't have a lot of faith in any part of the system," said protester Jeremy Bess.
"The state needs to stay focused until they find a root cause and a solution," said Indian Trail Mayor Michael Alvarez, who also attended the protest.
Larson and Harper did not receive money for caring for the 11-year-old boy.
DSS visits kids in foster care at least four times a year, but DSS does not make those same home visits once kids are adopted or under guardianship, like the 11-year-old.