The Buford couple convicted of locking their teenage son in a basement room for two years will now be locked in prison for 10 times as long.

“As parents, we need to tread lightly with the responsibility that we have,” said Judge Deborah R. Fluker at the couple’s sentencing Monday morning.

She sentenced Recardo and Therian Wimbush to 20 years in prison each followed by 10 years of probation. The sentence came after a jury found the couple guilty of three counts of negligent child cruelty Friday.

Fluker imposed the same sentence Assistant District Attorney Dan Mayfield suggested to the court on behalf of the state. She said she agreed to that sentence after considering evidence in the trial that showed the parents struggled with coming up with legal punishments for their children.

“Having the life experience, financial resources, the educational background that each of you had, that light bulb never came on for you as to where that line of reasonableness should have been drawn,” Fluker said. “And you far exceeded anything that could possibly be considered reasonable in your treatment (of the children).”

Therian and Recardo have both publicly spoken about their degrees from Georgia Tech.

The conviction against the husband and wife means the couple acted negligently and caused their teenage son “excessive physical or mental pain” when they locked him in a small basement room from 2012 until 2014. It also means the couple caused the same kind of pain to their now 10-year-old son when they ignored the cancerous tumor growing on his stomach.

He’s been receiving chemotherapy treatments for the disease since he entered foster care.

Recardo and Therian Wimbush did not deny that they’d locked their teenager in a basement room. Instead, throughout the trial they maintained it was a punishment of his choosing.

They also maintained that their 10-year-old’s “lump” hadn’t been bothering him and, therefore, hadn’t warranted doctor attention.

Mayfield said those statements troubled him and were largely how he based his recommended sentence.

“The most startling thing about this case is the defendants’ position that they have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Both Recardo and Therian Wimbush said before sentencing Monday they now agreed with the jury’s decision that they’d acted negligently toward their children — though both maintained they believed at the time their actions were in the kids’ best interest.

Therian, in particular, seemed to take responsibility.

“Truly, in all this (Recardo) is innocent,” she said. “This entire situation lies on my shoulders.”

She said she locked her teenage son in the basement room to keep him from ending up in prison, like two of his uncles had. She said she considered it ironic that she and her husband were now facing prison time as a result of that punishment.

“I wish we had done things very differently,” Therian Wimbush said. “And futuristically, I think that we will.”

But it will be a long time before either will act as parents to any of their children again.

When they’re out on probation, the Wimbush parents won’t be allowed to have contact with either of the two children they’re convicted of abusing until the kids are 21 years old.

Even once they turn 21, the kids must initiate the contact, Fluker said.

The remaining eight Wimbush children will be allowed supervised visits with their parents until they are 18 years old. Then, they’ll be allowed to visit their parents on their own as long as they’ve initiated the contact.

The Wimbush kids’ guardian ad litem and an attorney acting as a direct attorney to eight of the children both said the kids, who range in age from four to 16, all want to see and have contact with their parents.

Fluker said that resiliency broke her heart.

“Children have a gift that is an uncanny gift for unconditional love and forgiveness,” she said. “Yet you, as a worldly adult — educated, (with) financial resources — came to the decision that your child did not deserve forgiveness.”

Both Therian and Recardo said Monday they wished to appeal the court’s decision. Recardo requested the court provide him with an attorney. Therian said she planned continue to act as her own attorney.

UGA class of 2014 grad working at the Daily Post since November 2016.

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