Raymond Daniel Thurmond, 36, and his wife both signed the lease for the home in August 2005, but property manager Alma Medina said she only saw Thurmond after that. Police say that's because Thurmond let his wife and children, ages 9 to 14, out only once in three years to visit relatives.
Thurmond is charged with rape, child abuse and false imprisonment and was being held without bond until a hearing. He has asked for an attorney but one hadn't been assigned as of Wednesday afternoon.
Medina said she never suspected he was holding his family captive.
"I saw him because he would come pay rent," Medina told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. "But I never saw anyone else like family or kids."
Medina said Thurmond told her his family was out of town visiting sick relatives. The lease also lists the children as residents of the trailer in Lavonia, about 90 miles northeast of Atlanta.
Medina said he often paid rent several months late and she sent him an eviction notice in February. She said he paid a few days later and she allowed them to stay because Thurmond was always polite.
Police photos show roaches crawling in and out of drawers, cupboards and furniture. Old pizza boxes were stacked in a corner of the living room with dozens of empty plastic soda bottles strewn on the floor. Stacks of dirty dishes covered kitchen counters and empty cans of food and bags of garbage were all over, mixed with dirty clothes and other trash.
Investigators said Thurmond's wife told them she was not allowed to clean.
Lavonia Police Chief Bruce Carlisle said officers arrested Thurmond Tuesday when he showed up for work at a poultry processing plant in Stephens County. He said the family was discovered after the woman was finally able to escape and call for help.
Officers found evidence that the family was forcibly kept in the house, including a padlock on a bedroom door, he said.
"It's scary stuff," he said. "We're just glad we were able to get to them."
He said investigators found no food in the home, and the children were undernourished and underweight.
A 14-year-old once attended first grade but that the other children - 13, 12 and 9 - had never been to school, Carlisle said.
The family was in protective custody. The children were being evaluated and their medical needs treated, police said.