Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Karen Beyers denied bond Tuesday to a former Georgia Tech football star and his wife in their bizarre cruelty case.
Recardo and Therian Wimbush are charged with malicious child cruelty and false imprisonment on charges they kept their oldest of 10 children locked in the basement for months as punishment.
“These defendants are in fact a risk of influencing witnesses and a risk at influencing the victim,” Beyers said. “The evidence at the preliminary hearing was chilling.”
Beyers said her decision was influenced by the fact that the family appeared so well-educated, accomplished, and high functioning which contrasted so severely with the conditions in which their 13-year-old son was found.
Beyers agreed with Dan Mayfield, chief deputy prosecutor in Gwinnett, argued that Wimbushes might influence the alleged victim, the 13-year-old son, and their nine other children if they were released on bond.
“They are capable of inhumane treatment,” Mayfield said. “Their behavior is bizarre and unpredictable and it reveals an abnormal world view of parenting.”
Defense lawyers Teri Thompson and Jeffrey Sliz argued the couple met all the conditions for bond. They produced letters attesting to the Wimbushes good character and their close-knit family and Thompson reminded the judge that she had two cases involving malicious child cruelty in Gwinnett where the defendants almost immediately got bond.
One Savannah State University student wrote the court that Therian Wimbush would take his call in the middle of the night to counsel him and routinely provided sound advice. Thompson said another person described the Wimbushes as like a “Hallmark Card where the children would crawl over Mr. Wimbush and tickle him and kiss him.”
“All we have is speculation that sometime in the future there might be some sort of intimidation or influence,” Thompson said.
The children are currently in foster care, Mayfield told the court.
The Wimbushes isolated their oldest child, now 13, to discipline him, said Dwight Thomas, a lawyer for 37-year-old Therian.
At Tuesday’s hearing both the defense lawyers and Mayfield limited testimony in court, saying they wanted to decrease publicity in the case. Instead they asked Beyers to read the transcript from the July preliminary hearing to help determine to set bond
He and Teri Thompson, who represents 33-year-old Recardo, argued at a July 10 hearing that their clients were excellent candidates for bond; they noted the boy was in a good physical and mental health as were their other kids. The Wimbushes home schooled their children, which is why school authorities never raised questions about the 13-year-old.
Chief Magistrate Christina Blum, however, sided with the prosecutor who said he feared the Wimbushes might get access to their children while on bond.
Blum noted the Wimbushes seemingly stellar educational backgrounds contrasted with the charges —- the implication that of all people they should have known better —- made her even more uncomfortable with bond. Therian has dual degrees in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech and Spelman College. Recardo completed his degree at Georgia Tech after his athletic career ended.
“It is interesting to me this duality in their lives, ” Blum said. “And I am disturbed by the facts I’ve heard today.”
At the July hearing, social workers and police contended the Buford couple kept their 13-year-old son locked up away from his siblings in a way that was maliciously cruel. The child had no access to toys, the 80-square-foot area was dark at night because no light bulb was in the fixture, when social workers investigated an anonymous complaint on June 16, testified Felicia Churchill, an special-victim investigator with the Gwinnett police.
The boy believed his punishment was deserved because he had been disobedient and lied to his mother about taking a DVD and a book to the room before it was locked, Churchill said. He acknowledged being whipped with a belt for inappropriately touching his siblings but did not remember any bruising.
The picture did not square with the one familiar to friends of the Wimbushes or with an undated website that depicts seemingly happy, smiling kids and the importance of religion to the family and its devotion to “Yah, ” a derivative of Yahweh.
The Wimbushes ground their faith in the Old Testament and are strong disciplinarians, Thomas said.
They have been married since their Georgia Tech days when Recardo was a football star and team captain in 2002. He tried out for the Atlanta Falcons but did not make the team. He was employed by Norfolk Southern railroad.
Therian, who was honorably discharged from the Navy, also privately tutored other children.