The 13 children of David and Louise Turpin have been rescued from filthy and violent home conditions.


From the outside, the family seemed to be perfectly happy. “They all dressed alike when they went out,” David’s sister Betty Turpin told CNN. Now the parents are being accused of holding their kids captive and chaining them to their beds in their Perris, California, home. The children range in age from 2 to 29, with six under the age of 18.

The Turpins are being charged with torture and child endangerment, and their bail was set at $9 million each. Their first court hearing is scheduled for Thursday, and it is unclear if either client or attorneys had entered a plea.

On Sunday, one of the daughters, 17, escaped her shackles and went out a window. She called 911 from a deactivated cell phone she found in the house, saying that she and her 12 siblings were being held hostage by their parents. The teen also had photos to support her story, says Riverside County Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Fellows. “I wish I could come to you with information that would explain why this happened, but we do need to acknowledge the courage of the young girl who escaped from that residence to bring attention so they can get the help they so need,” Fellows told reporters on Tuesday.

No call to law enforcement nor child protective services was ever made on the Turbins. Riverside County Department of Public Social Services Director Susan von Zabern said, this “was the first opportunity we had to intervene.” Fellows likened the treatment of the kids to torture, and noted that the mother was “perplexed as to why” the police came to her home. The 12 victims found in the home “appeared malnourished and very dirty.” Several were shackled to their beds “in dark and foul-smelling surroundings,” according to police.

The authorities were stunned to find out at that seven of the victims were technically adults. “It’s hard to think of them as adults,” medical CEO Mark Uffer told CNN. “When you see them, they’re small. They’re stable. They’re being fed.” Another doctor, Danile Hoffman, adds that growth basically halts at the age when undernutrition begins. “The problem is not having enough energy or micronutrients – key nutrients like zinc, folate, iron – for an extended period of time,” he said. “Kids can become ‘stunted,’ meaning they’re shorter than should be for their age. If you lack micronutrients, you can meet energy to live everyday and even have a normal body weight, but growth can still be stunted.”

The family previously lived in Texas. The new owners of their Forth Worth home called the house “the compound.” They described it as having broken and boarded up windows, waste all over the floors and walls, and scratches on the backs of doors. The new owner also said their kids used to play together, but that the Turpins generally kept the kids away from people. She recalled that when her child asked the name of their child, she said they weren’t allowed to give out their names. “Then, all of a sudden, after that conversation it kind of stopped. They quit…hanging out together and playing together.”

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