Gwinnett County police believe former Georgia Tech standout Recardo Wimbush and his wife kept their 13-year-old son locked inside a room at their Buford home for nearly two years. (Staff Photo: Tyler Estep)
BUFORD — In a small blue room that locked from the outside, the 13-year-old boy was a prisoner in his own home for nearly two years, police said.
No electricity meant the sun’s muted rays coming through a painted-over window were the only light he saw. He was fed regularly, but had only a bare mattress and a plastic jar for a toilet. He did not attend school and was cut off from the rest of the world, including his nine younger siblings.
His parents — including former Georgia Tech football standout Recardo Wimbush — reportedly said he was being punished.
“He was really treated like a prisoner,” Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said.
Smith said Thursday that Wimbush, 33, and wife Therian, 37, have each been charged with first-degree cruelty to children and false imprisonment. They are scheduled to turn themselves in on Friday.
The details behind their imminent arrest are disturbing.
According to police, the Division of Family and Children Services visited to the Wimbush home at 1924 Pierce Way in Buford on June 16, responding to an anonymous complaint regarding a 13-year-old boy “being imprisoned in his family’s home.” Case workers reportedly found the child confined to a small room which locked from the outside and was taped shut.
“The victim appeared to be in generally good health,” police said. “The parents stated the victim was confined for disciplinary reasons.”
According to an initial police report, the Wimbushes claimed their eldest son was being punished because “he ran away often and molested the other children.” Smith said that, as of Thursday, there was no physical evidence to support those claims and no “outcries” from the victim’s siblings.
The victim’s nine other siblings, all younger, were in good health and DFCS “required the lock to be removed from the door and left the victim and his siblings in the custody of their parents,” Smith said.
DFCS did not notify police.
A deprivation hearing was held three days later, during which a judge ordered all 10 children into state custody. A criminal investigation was launched immediately following the court appearance.
“We weren’t notified about this until after the deprivation hearing,” Smith said, adding that an officer from the special victims unit was on scene about 20 minutes afterward.
A search warrant was executed the same day and detectives reportedly found the victim’s room “largely unchanged”: A single fitted sheet had been added to the mattress and the room was clean, but the sole light fixture was not equipped with a light bulb.
The subsequent investigation revealed startling details.
“The victim had been confined to the room for most of the past two years and a lock had been added to the victim’s room in January 2013,” Smith said. “The victim had no access to books, toys, entertainment devices or his siblings. He was provided with food at normal meal times and was occasionally let out to use the bathroom. He did not attend school or any other activities during this time.”
The boy’s nine siblings were reportedly home schooled, but that remains under investigation.
Recardo Wimbush played linebacker at Georgia Tech from 1999 to 2002. According to his biography on the school’s website, he and his wife had two children — including the victim — while there. Wimbush also signed briefly with the Atlanta Falcons.
The specific reasoning for Recardo and Therian Wimbush turning themselves in Friday was unclear, but Smith said he believed it was based on their having “significant ties to the area.” Attempts to reach the Wimbushes via their family website were unsuccessful.
The Wimbush residence — a $200,000 home in a middle-class neighborhood off Braselton Highway — was quiet Thursday. A silver economy-sized van sat in the driveway.
Next door neighbor Pam Harris said the large family kept to themselves but regularly played in the backyard, a spacious area filled with toys, a swing set and a trampoline.
“I really didn’t know how many kids they had because they have so many,” Harris said. “… I would never have expected what supposedly happened. I can’t believe that anybody would do that to their kids.”
Suwanee police arrested both Wimbush parents on simple battery charges in 2005. Details about that arrest were not available Thursday.
The Wimbushes’ webpage, wimbushed.com, paints them as a highly religious family. A poem titled “Our Deepest Fear” is featured prominently on the site.
“Our deepest fear,” it says, in part, “is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”