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Man accused of locking family in trash-filled trailer

  • Story Highlights
  • Wife, four children left mobile home only once in three years, police say
  • Raymond Thurmond charged with rape, cruelty to children, false imprisonment
  • Mobile home was filled with piles of trash several feet high
  • Police officer: "I have never in my life smelled anything like that"
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By Eliott C. McLaughlin and Mallory Simon
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LAVONIA, Georgia (CNN) -- A Georgia man is accused of holding his wife and children captive in a trash-filled mobile home for three years, police said Wednesday.

Police say Raymond Daniel Thurmond kept his wife and children locked inside a trailer for three years.

Raymond Daniel Thurmond, 36, was arrested after police got a call from a woman at a local shelter August 4, Lavonia Police Lt. Missy Collins said.

"She told me they had a mother and four kids and apparently they'd been kept at home and there was some abuse allegations and the dad wouldn't let them leave," Collins said.

Collins said police were told that the family had been at the shelter for several days.

When police got to the mobile home where the family was said to be kept, the conditions were so bad, Collins immediately ran behind an adjacent trailer to vomit, she said. Another officer had to put on a gas mask, she said.

"You couldn't breathe," Collins said. "I have never in my life smelled anything like that."

During the three years they were locked inside the mobile home, the family was allowed out only once: to visit Thurmond's wife's family in North Carolina, Collins said. The 9-, 12- and 13-year-olds never went to school, police said, but the oldest, a 14-year-old boy, might have attended the second grade.

Thurmond, who has no criminal record, was charged with one count of rape, four counts of cruelty to children in the first degree and five counts of false imprisonment. He is being held in the Franklin County Jail.

Thurmond hadn't been assigned an attorney as of Wednesday afternoon.

Police said they believe that Thurmond used intimidation to keep the family inside the home in northeast Georgia, about a mile from I-85.

A CNN reporter saw signs of a hasp commonly used with a padlock outside one of the children's bedroom and also on the front door. Another hasp was attached to the outside of the back door. Police said they were investigating whether padlocks were used to keep the family inside.

Alma Medina, the property manager for the Beaver Creek mobile home park, had lived three doors away from the family for the past 2 years. Medina said Thurmond was often late paying his rent but was very respectful.

"A very nice guy, very quiet," she said. "He never bothered nobody."

Medina said she put a note on Thurmond's door to pay the late rent by August 5. On August 6, after no rent was received, she sent her maintenance man to the 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom trailer. He opened the door and came straight back, she said.

"I want you to see this with your own eyes," she recalled the maintenance worker saying to her. "You better wear some shoes and gloves or something."

Medina went in the trailer and found piles of trash everywhere: 4, 5 or 6 feet high, she said.

Medina shot a video of the trash inside the trailer, including Diet Mountain Dew bottles, board games, cigarette boxes, frozen pizza boxes and piles of human hair on the kitchen floor. The laundry room was filled to the ceiling with trash, Medina said.

"You cannot describe the smell," she said. "It was so strong it would knock you out."

After Thurmond's arrest, the trailer was cleaned out, but yellow jackets swarmed around a Dumpster full of trash -- including a stroller, car seat and toys -- from the trailer. A horrible stench still lingers. Before the park's maintenance staff began cleaning, anthills were under a mattress in the master bedroom, maggots crept around the trailer and roaches roamed inside the fridge.

"You cannot imagine someone lives, sleeps like that," Medina said.

Sonya Savage, who shared a yard with Thurmond's trailer, said she lived next door for more than a year but saw a child on only one occasion and she wasn't sure if it was Thurmond's.

Many of the neighborhood children play in front of her trailer, Savage said.

"Usually, I got a yard full of kids, but I've never seen any of [Thurmond's] kids come out and play," she said.

When Savage heard about Thurmond, she said, she was shocked to find out there was a "sicko" living in her backyard.

"It scared the crap out of me," she said. "I have a 4-year-old daughter."

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