GEORGIA — A couple accused of locking their 13-year-old in a basement for nearly two years have been jailed without bail pending a hearing next month.
Recardo Wimbush, 33, and his wife Therian, 37, of Buford, Georgia, have both been charged with cruelty to children and false imprisonment after police discovered their son in a small room with blacked-out windows.
The boy, whose name has not been released, reportedly had not seen his nine younger siblings for one year.
His sparsely furnished room, which was bolted from the outside, consisted of a mattress, a box spring and a large plastic jar to urinate. The child did not have access to toys, books and electrical devices, and there was no light bulb.
He was let out occasionally to use the bathroom, according to investigators. The parents would bring food downstairs to the boy when the rest of the family had meals.
Gwinnett County Police Department in Georgia was alerted to the boy’s grim existence after an anonymous tip off in mid-June. The child was recused the next day.
“He was essentially being treated as a prisoner would be treated,” Corporal Jake Smith, spokesman for Gwinnett Police, said in an interview. “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.”
The boy was in good health, as were his siblings, and there were no other signs of abuse.
According to the criminal arrest warrant, “Therian and Recardo justified [the boy’s] treatment in Juvenile Court by saying [he] molested three of the younger siblings. [The boy] stated that he was locked in the bedroom located in the basement for taking the family DVD player and lying about it.”
The couple, rigid devotees of a religion dedicated to ‘Yah,’ homeschooled all 10 of their children. Detectives believe the victim was not being schooled.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere said there could well be mental health issues which sanctioned this “bizarre behavior and punishment against their child.” He adds, “These parents have latched onto religion as a self medication for their delusional thinking.”
This case, much like the widely published events surrounding Detroit homeschooler Charlie Bothuell IV., highlights the dangers of vulnerable children slipping through the net once they’ve been removed from school.
Charlie had been homeschooled for the last couple of years and was subjected to a rigid daily regime, including doing “4,000 strides on an elliptical machine without a break,” according to a police report.
Rebecca Gorman, who last year set up a change.org petition into “address the problem of child abuse and neglect in homeschooling families,” said incidents like this are more common than people think.
“There is a spectrum of false imprisonment in homeschooling,” adds Gorman, a former K-12 homeschooler. “The problem with homeschooling is that you’re basically locked up in the house everyday. Kids shouldn’t be brought up that way; they need to be out and about playing, socializing and interacting with other children.”
The 30-year-old said the issue is when kids are taken out of school there are no checks and balances to prevent neglect or abuse of power. In Gorman’s case, she had an ongoing medical condition that was left untreated.
Wimbush, a former Georgia Tech star football player, and his wife had previously been arrested in 2005 on simple battery charges, according to Gwinnett County Detention Center records.
The parents surrendered at the Gwinnett County jail on Friday, and the investigation is ongoing.
Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter @Kunbiti.