After a 17-year-old told police that her parents were holding her and her siblings captive, police rescued 12 other children, some of whom were chained to their beds.
On January 14th, police in Perris, California received a call from a girl saying that she had escaped from her parents’ house and that her siblings were still prisoners in the house. When officers went to the house they found the couple’s 12 other children, in conditions that Capt. Greg Fellows, the commander of the Perris Sheriff’s Station, called “horrific.”
Several of the children were found chained to their beds, and the house was dark, smelled foul, and didn’t have adequate access to food or water. While the children ranged from 2 to 29, the officers initially thought they were all under 18 because they were so malnourished. The siblings were brought to a local hospital for treatment, but given food first, as they claimed to be starving. “It’s hard to think of them as adults. When you see them, they’re small,” said Mark Uffer, Corona Regional Medical Center CEO. But he described them as being in “stable” condition.
Their parents, David Allen and Louise Anna Turpin, were arrested on charges of torture and child endangerment, with bail set at $9 million US each. Fellows said that Turpin seemed “perplexed as to why we were at that residence,” and that neither parent could “immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained.” The couple filed for bankruptcy with court documents say they owed between $100,000 and $500,000, but had no previous record with CPS or law enforcement.
The couple owns the house where the children were found, and the family has been living there since 2010. According to the state’s Department of Education directory, the house is the location of the Sandcastle Day School, a private K-12 school that lists Turpin as its principal. To start his “school,” Turpin merely had to fill out a Department of Education affidavit that his children were attending full-time. Under California law, the education department does not have the authority to inspect or monitor private schools.
The couple’s social media presence was filled with photos of the family on social outings, generally with the children dressed in matching clothes. “They all dressed alike when they went out,” Betty Turpin, David’s mother, told CNN. She also said that when they went out as a family, the couple would line the children up according to age with one parent at the front and one at the back, for “protective reasons.” To the couple’s bankruptcy lawyer, they seemed like “very normal people.”
But many of the family’s neighbors report that the family seemed strange. Several neighbors remember an incident a few years ago, where four of the children rolled out sod on the lawn under cover of darkness as their mother watched. Kimberly Milligan, who lives in the house across the street, said that the children seemed much paler than the other children in the neighborhood, and never really came out to play. She recalls an incident two years ago when, after she complimented several of the children on the Nativity scene they were putting up, they “froze [as] if by doing so they could become invisible.” “Twenty-year-olds never act like that,” she told Reuters. “They didn’t want to have a social conversation.”
In the aftermath of the Turpins’ arrest, these neighbors are left wondering how they were able to get away with abusing their children for so long. “We’re not acres apart,” Milligan said. “How did no one see anything?”
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