A former college football star and his wife have been arrested for allegedly locking their 13-year-old son in the basement of their home for two years because he took the family DVD player and then fibbed about it.
The bizarre child cruelty case is unfolding in the suburban sprawl northeast of Atlanta, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Gwinnett County police issued arrest warrants for former Georgia Tech linebacker Recardo Wimbush, 33, and his wife, Therian Cornelia Wimbush, who is 37.
The couple has 10 children and appears to be deeply committed to an obscure, non-mainline branch of Christianity.
They told investigators that they had locked the boy – their eldest son – in a small, dark room with blacked-out windows containing just box springs and a mattress for “disciplinary reasons.” He was prevented from associating with his many brothers and sisters. He was banned from playing with toys and reading books.
They said he had “sinned” by taking the DVD player without permission, according to the Daily Mail. It was a “wicked act” and the punishment was necessary to keep their now-teenage son on the “straight and narrow.”
At a June 19 hearing in family court, Recardo and Therian Wimbush told a judge they believed their son was a threat to their other children.
The boy told the judge that his two years of troubles began when he took the family DVD player and was then untruthful about his actions.
Investigators believe that the parents only permitted their son to go outside the confines of his basement chamber a few times each day to eat and use the restroom. There was also a big plastic bucket in the room for the boy to use the bathroom, apparently, if necessary.
He had not seen his brothers and sisters for a year, investigators claimed.
Neighbors expressed shock.
“I don’t think anyone in the neighborhood knew them well, but the kids would be outside playing, they seemed happy,” neighbor Pamela Harris told the Journal-Constitution. “When you did see them, they would be all together. The parents would be with them.”
A family website, Wimbushed.com, appears to have been taken down from the Internet. However, a cached version – courtesy of the Internet Archive – indicates profound religious conviction. “You are a child of God,” says a poem on the front page, in part. “We are all meant to shine, as children do.”
Harris noted that the Wimbush family did not observe Halloween and handed out Bibles to any trick-or-treating kids who stopped by.
Recardo Wimbush had a storied career at Georgia Tech. He was a four-year starter, an all-ACC linebacker and the 2002 team captain. He signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons but does not appear to have made the roster.
Therian Wimbush has degrees from both Georgia Tech and Spelman College.
The charges against the Wimbushes are cruelty to children and false imprisonment.
The parents surrendered at the Gwinnett County jail on Friday.
In a court appearance on Saturday, a judge refused to provide either parent with a bail order.