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Investigators sought to shed light Tuesday on how a California couple arrested on suspicion of torture were able to keep their 13 malnourished children — ages 2 to 29 – confined in their suburban home in grim conditions with no one noticing.
Sheriff’s deputies found some of the children shackled to their beds in filthy conditions Sunday after receiving a 911 call from one of the kids, a 17-year-old girl who managed to escape.
She was so emaciated that officers said that at first they thought she was just 10 years old.
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“Further investigation revealed several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings, but the parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in that manner,” the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
“Deputies located what they believed to be 12 children inside the house, but were shocked to discover that seven of them were actually adults, ranging in age from 18 to 29. The victims appeared to be malnourished and very dirty.”
Police gave them food and beverages “after they claimed to be starving.”
The parents, 57-year-old David Allen Turpin and 49-year-old Louise Anna Turpin, were booked on suspicion of torture and child endangerment with bail set at $9 million each.
Turpin’s parents, who live in West Virginia, told ABC News they were “surprised and shocked,” adding they had not seen their son or his children in four or five years.
Neighbor Julio Reyes, 38, told AFP: “We’ve seen a couple of teenagers maybe last year mowing the lawn, and you know they put some Christmas decorations.”
“Never really thought anything of any sort would happen like that,” Reyes added.
– Middle class neighborhood –
The Spanish-style stucco house where the victims were allegedly held is located in a middle class neighborhood of Perris, a small city some 70 miles (110 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles.
Three cars were parked at the home, along with a van with tinted windows. One of the cars, a blue compact, had a child’s seat in the back.
There are indications that the children were allowed outside the house in recent years.
A Facebook page under the name of David-Louise Turpin — still visible on Tuesday — includes pictures of the couple staging renewals of their wedding vows from 2011 to 2016, with their children present.
In the latest set, uploaded in April-July 2016, Louise Turpin wears a long white wedding gown while her husband is dressed in a suit.
An Elvis Presley impersonator holds a microphone and poses with the couple and children in a scene reminiscent of a Las Vegas wedding.
Nine girls, all with long dark hair, wear matching fuchsia plaid dresses with white tights, while a baby girl is dressed in a bright pink dress.
Three boys, their dark hair in bowl cuts like David Turpin, are dressed in suits with fuchsia ties.
An April 2016 photograph shows the same smiling children and the couple wearing jeans and red t-shirts that read “Thing 1,” “Thing 2,” “Thing 3” and so on — a reference to the mischievous twins in the popular Dr Seuss book “The Cat in the Hat.”
In another September 2015 photograph, Louise Turpin holds a baby wearing a t-shirt reading “Mommy loves me.”
Neighbor Jamelia Adams, 39, expressed shock.
“It’s just really, really sad,” Adams told AFP.
“Here’s a beautiful neighborhood, brand-new housing tract, newer cars in the yard, and here’s some kids from 29 to two that was just held captive and malnourished and filthy. It’s just heartbreaking.”
– Bankruptcy –
David Turpin is registered in state records as head of a private school. The address matches that of the Turpins’ home, and the children were apparently home-schooled.
The Los Angeles Times said the couple had lived at the Perris house since 2010, after a move from Texas, adding they went bankrupt twice.
According to court papers, the couple filed for bankruptcy in 2011, at a time when David Turpin was working as an engineer for defense contractor Northrop Grumman, earning $140,000 a year.
“They seemed like very normal people who fell into financial problems,” Ivan Trahan, the lawyer who represented them in that case, told The Los Angeles Times.
The case recalls previous kidnapping horrors in the United States that have made global headlines in recent years.
Ariel Castro abducted three young women and held them captive at his Cleveland home for a decade. He was arrested in May 2013 after one of his victims escaped, and later hung himself in his prison cell.
Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped as an 11-year-old and repeatedly raped over 18 years by convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido in California. She was rescued in August 2009.
Categories: World News