California authorities say the mother of 13 children kept locked in filthy conditions was “perplexed” about why police came to their home.
At a news conference Tuesday, Riverside County sheriff’s Capt. Greg Fellows described the reaction of Louise Turpin, 49, but said he didn’t know the reaction of the father, David Turpin, 57.
The children, some of them chained to furniture, were described as weak and small for their age. Fellows called it torture.
“Some of our staff described it as a very foul smell inside the residence. It was extremely dirty,” the officer said.
The abuse was discovered when a 17-year-old girl jumped out a window and called 911 Sunday.
The girl, who was so small officers initially believed she was only 10, was met by police officers who interviewed her and then went to the family home in Perris, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The children, ages two to 29, were so malnourished officers at first believed the older children were teens, but seven turned out to be adults.
The sheriff’s captain said deputies had never been to the home and neither had social service workers.
The Turpins are each being held on $9-million US bail and could face charges including torture and child endangerment.
It wasn’t immediately known if they had attorneys. They are scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning.
‘Hard to think of them as adults’
Corona Regional Medical Centre CEO Mark Uffer said his facility is treating the seven adult children. Uffer said they are small and clearly malnourished.
“It’s hard to think of them as adults when you first see them because they’re small. They’re stable and being fed. They’re comfortable and they’re in a very safe and secure environment,” said Uffer, who also described the siblings as friendly and co-operative.
“I believe they’re hopeful that life will get better for them after this event.”
State Department of Education records show the Turpin 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 enrolment of six with one student in each of the fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth, 10th and 12th grades.
Grandfather surprised at arrest
David Turpin’s father said he was surprised by news that his son was arrested on Sunday.
James Turpin of Princeton, W.Va., told The Associated Press Tuesday that all 13 children are his son’s biological kids. He said none are adopted.
He confirmed that his son is an engineer and told WTRF-TV in Wheeling, W.Va., that David grew up in West Virginia.
Neighbours in Perris 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 newspaper of Riverside. “I didn’t know there were kids in the house.”
Other neighbours 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 family moved to Southern California in 2011 from Johnson County, Texas, near Dallas, according to property records.
The Turpins filed for bankruptcy that same year, stating in court documents they owed between $100,000 and $500,000. 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 New York 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.