A social worker has been charged after her foster child was found chained to the porch of her home with a dead chicken around his neck, police said.
The 11-year-old boy was discovered, shivering and alone, restrained by a handcuff around his ankle in Monroe, North Carolina, the Union Country Sheriff’s Office said.
Captain Ronnie Whitaker said: “The chicken feet were tied together by a string, and it was hanging around his neck.
“[I’m] shocked and in disbelief that anyone could such a thing to another human being, especially a child.”
Dorian Lee Harper, 57, was arrested at the scene, and the social worker, Wanda Sue Larson, 57, who also lived there, was later charged.
An officer was responding to a complaint next door when he noticed the child and investigated. He ended up removing five children from the home.
Larson is a supervisor at the county’s social services department.
“While not present at the time the children were discovered, Larson is accused of being complicit in the ongoing mistreatment of the children,” authorities said.
The couple had adopted four of the children, aged between 8 and 14, and were serving as foster parents for the 11-year-old found on the porch.
They have both been charged with “intentional child abuse – inflicting serious injury, false imprisonment, and cruelty to animals (based on the condition of some of the family pets as well)”, the sheriff’s office said.
Larson also faces a charge of failing her duty as a public official.
It is unclear what prompted the use of the dead chicken and handcuffs on the boy.
Captain Whitaker said he could not disclose details from police interviews conducted as part of the investigation.
Sheriff Eddie Cathey pledged to investigate the “shocking” case “to its fullest extent”.
People in the neighbourhood were shocked at the news.
“That’s some sick people. Sick and ungodly and demonic,” said neighbour Harry Wallace.
Another neighbour, Gene Wallace, said: “It was beyond surprise. Makes you wonder what our county officials do in their spare time.”
The pair are due in court on Monday.