Calif. couple charged with abuse for starving, chaining their children
Police say a teen's 'courage' led officers to tortured, starved children. USA TODAY
Authorities in Riverside County, Calif. say that a husband and wife are in custody after allegedly chaining their children to beds in filthy conditions.
One of the children, a 17-year-old girl, escaped from the house in Perris, Calif. on Sunday and dialed 911 on a cellphone she grabbed from the home, according to Perris police. When investigating officers arrived, the girl looked much younger because of her level of emaciation, police said.
Officers went inside the house and found "several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings," a police the statement said. The youngest was 2 years old. Like their sister, the 12 siblings in the house appeared to police to be minors and malnourished, but authorities determined seven of them were in fact adults from the ages of 18 to 29, the Los Angeles Times reported.
David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, were charged Sunday with torture and child endangerment, the Sheriff's Department said.
The parents were being held in jail in lieu of $9 million bail on child abuse charges.
The six children -- including the 17-year-old who escaped -- are being treated at Riverside University Health System Medical Center in Moreno Valley. The seven adults are being treated at Corona Regional Medical Center in Corona, authorities said.
State Department of Education records show the family home has the same address as Sandcastle Day School, where David Turpin is listed as principal. In the 2016-17 school year it had an enrollment of six with one student in each of the fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth, 10th and 12th grades.
Neighbors said they were stunned by the arrests. Andrew Santillan, who lives around the corner, heard about the case from a friend.
“I had no idea this was going on,” he told the Press-Enterprise of Riverside. “I didn’t know there were kids in the house.”
Other neighbors described the family as intensely private.
A few years ago, Robert Perkins said he and his mother saw a few family members constructing a Nativity scene in the Turpins’ front yard. Perkins said he complimented them on it.
“They didn’t say a word,” he said.
The Turpins filed for bankruptcy in 2011, stating in court documents they owed between $100,000 and $500,000, The New York Times reported. At that time, Turpin worked as an engineer at Northrop Grumman and earned $140,000 annually and his wife was a homemaker, records showed.
Their bankruptcy lawyer, Ivan Trahan, told the Times he never met the children but the couple “spoke about them highly.”
“We remember them as a very nice couple,” Trahan said, adding that Louise Turpin told him the family loved Disneyland and visited often.
Contributing: Associated Press