In a bizarre child abuse case, Therian Wimbush on Thursday began defending her decisions as a mother as state authorities endeavor in Gwinnett County Juvenile Court to permanently take custody of her 10 children.
The children have been in foster care since she and her husband were arrested for felony child abuse in June. They have remained in jail in Gwinnett with no contact with their children after prosecutors argued they might influence their testimony.
The criminal charges against her and husband Recardo Wimbush, a former Georgia Tech football captain and standout, arose from allegations they imprisoned their oldest child — now 14 — in the basement of their Buford home as punishment. The state division of family and children services contends the Wimbushes’ parenting is so depraved that they should lose custody of all their kids.
The custody hearing is not part of the criminal charges but central to the issue of whether the Wimbushes are fit parents. People who knew them were stunned regarding the allegations they harshly disciplined their son for stealing, lying and improperly touching his youngest siblings in what was described as misplaced curiosity rather than abuse.
The child said in a recorded interview played in court that he saw his parents every day and had been allowed to come upstairs during his basement exile but at one point he was banned from the upstairs.
Recardo Wimbush has yet to testify and a state social worker is to continue testifying Friday. On Thursday Angel Jackson, the social worker, said the parents continued to contend they had done nothing wrong.
She said the children had strong bonds with the parents and believed their brother had been punished appropriately.
“The girls described a loving relationship with their parents and they missed their home,” Jackson testified. “The boys miss their family. They don’t talk about it as being so loving and they do mention beatings.”
The oldest child blamed himself for the family’s predicament, Jackson said. She said she asked him what he would do when when he was locked up. “He said he would listen to the other children upstairs and imagine he was a part of what they were doing,” Jackson said. “That is how he passed his time.”
The boy said in an interview with a Gwinnett police officer — that his mother had quit homeschooling him while he was in the basement. The boy tested a grade below age level after the kids went into foster care — as did a couple of other children — although most tested at their grade level, Jackson said.
She described the kids as doing fine academically today.
Vicky Wallace, an attorney for the state division of family and children services, told the court the children were now being raised in a more “typically American” manner and were attending public school, had joined the Girl Scouts, were socializing with kids outside the family and getting regular medical appointments.
The lack of regular doctor visits in the past apparently had at least one serious consequence. One son was recently diagnosed with cancer that had been present for several years in the form of a tumor visible on his adomen. An oncologist, however, from Children Healthcare of Atlanta testified he didn’t blame the parents for believing it a more benign medical condition.
Therian Wimbush, 37, sparred occasionally with Wallace, objecting to how Wallace chacterized how she referred to her oldest child. “I never called him evil,” Wimbush said. “I used the terminology that he violated somebody else’s privacy.”
Wallace grilled Wimbush about her decision to have a natural miscarriage of a child at home after it had died in her womb and then bury the remains in the flower garden. Wimbush acknowledged two of her young children assisted her preparation for the miscarriage but denied they witnessed it.
“You opted for your body to take care of itself rather than having a (medical procedure)?” Wallace asked
“Absolutely,” Wimbush said.
She said the children saw the remains of the child they named “Daniel.”