Perris, CA – Authorities and medical professionals expressed horror at the malnourished condition of the 13 victims who were held captive in their California home by their parents, during a press conference on Tuesday.
“I’ve been in healthcare for a long time and I’ve never seen this,” said Mark Uffer, Chief Executive Officer of Corona Regional Medical Center, where the seven adult victims were being treated following their rescue.
“It’s hard to think of them as adults when you first see them,” Uffer said.
A California couple was arrested on charges of torture and child endangerment on Sunday, after police learned that they were holding their 13 biological children captive in their home.
In the early morning hours on Sunday, a 17-year-old girl managed to escape the residence, and called the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO) using a cell phone she had found inside the home.
The teen told the 911 operator that her parents, 57-year-old David Turpin, and 49-year-old Louise Turpin, were holding her and her siblings captive, and that “some of her siblings were bound with chains and padlocks,” according to a RCSO press release.
Police met with the girl, who they initially estimated to be only 10 years old, due to her malnourished state. After she was interviewed, investigators headed for the Turpin residence to conduct a welfare check.
At least four of the children were shackled and chained to their beds in the squalid conditions when officers arrived, WABC reported.
The mother seemed perplexed as to why the police would be raiding the house, police said.
“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,” RCSO said in the press release. “Deputies located what they believed to be 12 children inside the house, but were shocked to discover that 7 of them were actually adults.”
Investigators said that the victims “appeared to be malnourished,” and that they were “very dirty.”
Authorities said at the press conference that all of the victims were cooperating with police and that “they’re hopeful life will get better for them after this event.”
Adult Protective Services (APS) and Child Protective Services (CPS) were also summoned to assist the victims, according to Heath and Social Services Director Susan von Zabern.
She said her agency would seek Court authorization for the oversight and care of the children, including the adult children, if it was warranted.
The couple portrayed themselves to the outside world as a big, happy family on social media, and their children were often seen wearing matching outfits and similar haircuts.
The children were homeschooled, and public records list the Sandcastle Day School as located at the Turpins’ address. David was listed as the principal of the school.
She said that the family would line up when they left the house, with one of the parents at the lead, and the other at the back of the line.
“It was easier to keep up with the kids,” Betty said. “They were very protective of the kids.”
She explained that the couple had so many children because “God called on them” to do so, WABC reported.
Betty explained that the kids received “very strict homeschooling,” and that they would memorize long Bible passages.
“This is a highly respectable family,” Betty told CNN.
She added that her son took his entire family on vacation together, and that they had yearly passes to Disneyland.
The family moved into the Perris residence in 2010, and filed for bankruptcy in 2011, CNN reported.
Ivan Trahan, the attorney who assisted the Turpins during their bankruptcy proceedings, said that “there was nothing out of the ordinary” about the couple.
The Turpins are being held at the Robert Presley Detention Center on $9 million bond each.