Parents accused of child cruelty fight for right to visit kids

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A Gwinnett County Juvenile Court judge has denied an effort by two parents accused of child cruelty to back out of a custody deal with the state.

Therien and Recardo Wimbush asked the judge for an emergency hearing to let them show why their children should not be declared dependent and live where the state, not the parents, choose.

Thursday, Channel 2's Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas obtained a copy of the judge's order, denying the emergency hearing. The judge ruled the Wimbushes made a knowing waiver of their rights when they agreed last month to give temporary custody to the state. The judge ruled they can't go back on that deal.

In the deal, the Wimbushes agreed not to fight the dependency ruling while they are in custody, in exchange for the right to petition the court for custody if they get out of jail.

"We came to a consent order with the hopes the children could go home with a relative, but that didn't work out," said Therien Wimbush's attorney Alex Manning.

The Wimbushes are accused of locking their oldest child in a downstairs closet of their suburban home for months as punishment. Recardo Wimbush is a former Georgia Tech football star. As part of their religious beliefs, the couple home -schooled their children and kept to themselves.

Shortly after the couple's arrest last year, the state took custody of their remaining nine children. Therien Wimbush has been outspoken about what she considers unfair treatment of her kids since they have been in state foster care.

In an exclusive jailhouse interview last November, Therien Wimbush told Thomas she had concerns all along about her children's welfare in state custody.

"At the end of the day, this is not just a challenge for our family, it's not just about our family, it's about every family out there," she said.

Despite the setback, attorneys for the Wimbushes said they will not give up their efforts.

"The goal is that we keep the children here and close by and soon get the parents visitation," said Manning.

The Wimbushes will be back in Juvenile Court later this month for more custody hearings.