Smith, spokesman for Gwinnett police, noted social workers had removed the 10 children from the Buford couple’s house so they were not at risk.
Recardo, 33, and Therian, 37, told investigators they had locked their 13-year-old son in a room in the basement for “disciplinary reasons,” Smith said.
“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.”
The Buford couple was charged with malicious and intentional cruelty to children and false imprisonment and have until today to turn themselves in to authorities, Smith said. Police said the child appeared healthy.
The Wimbushes told a judge at a June 19 family court hearing that the 13-year-old was a threat to their other children. The arrest warrant said the child was “sent to the basement of the family house for the past two years in deplorable conditions due to being disobedient.”
Attempts to reach the Wimbushes for comment were unsuccessful. An undated family website shows a large family of seemingly happy smiling kids and explained the importance of religion to the family and its devotion to “Yah.”
The teenager was one of three children they had while at Georgia Tech where Wimbush was a linebacker captain of the football team during his 2002 senior season. According to a news story at the time, Therian was a tutor when they met before she was graduated with duel degrees from Tech and Spelman College in 2000. Recardo was described as a diaper-changing dad who got furloughs from team duties to be with his family.
“I knew I always wanted kids, ” he then told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They bring a bright spot to your heart, and they have with me.”
The charges shocked Wimbush’s former teammate Jeremy Muyres — who was a co-captain with Wimbush on the 2002 team.
“The one thing I do know is Recardo’s one of the best guys I’ve ever been around,” said Muyres, a teacher and football coach at Norcross High School. “Obviously, hearing about it, it’s shocking, but I don’t know all the details. None of us do yet.”
The warrants arose out of an investigation by the Department of Family and Children Services following an anonymous tip.
Social workers discovered the boy was being confined to a small room that locked from the outside; it contained a bare box springs and mattress and “a large plastic jar, which was apparently used as a toilet,” Smith said.
The boy was in good health, as were his nine siblings, and there were no other signs of abuse. After a hearing, a judge removed all the children from the house and contacted Gwinnett Police who searched the house the next day, Smith said.
Detectives found that the boy was fed at normal meal times and that the room was kept clean; the parents had added a sheet to the make-shift bed since the visit by the social workers, Smith said.
But detectives don’t believe the boy was being schooled — none of the children attended public school — and was only occasionally let out to use the bathroom, Smith said. The room was dark, with no light bulb in its fixture and the “single window was painted white which let in a small amount of light during daylight hours,” Smith said.
Recardo Wimbush, who grew up in Blakely, was a Georgia Tech linebacker from 1999 to 2002 and was the team captain his senior year, the same year he was a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection.
He was a standout athlete not only for team records, but also because he pursued his degree at the university after his athletic eligibility ended. He earned it in 2010.
Wimbush signed with the Falcons in April 2003 as an undrafted free agent but was released after training camp.
“I just remember he was always a good guy, always did the right thing,” Muyres said. “He was a guy who would always have your back, a guy who would always be there for you, a guy you could count on. He was just that type of person.”
Staff writer Ken Sugiura contributed to this article.