The thirteen children held captive in a California home endured horrific conditions, authorities revealed today.
According to police and the local district attorney, the children of the Turpin family, which included several adults, were routinely chained or shackled to beds, sometimes for months at a time. They were restrained for committing wrongs like washing their hands above the wrist.
The children rarely went outside and were only given one rationed meal a day. They were only allowed to shower once or twice a year.
Authorities also say at least one girl in the family was subjected to a lewd act by her father.
David and Louisa Turpin, the husband and wife who subjected their children to these horrors, have been charged with a number of crimes, that could send them to prison for life.
Additional details follow.
They were beaten, strangled and shackled to their beds with no access to a bathroom for months at a time for supposed offenses like “playing with water” when they washed their hands.
Their parents would buy toys but not let them play with them or even take them out of the packaging. Their parents would make pumpkins pies and not let the hungry children eat them.
And one of girls was the victim of a lewd act allegedly at the hands of her father David Allen Turpin, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said Thursday.
“This is severe, emotional and physical abuse, there is no way around that,” Hestrin said. “This is depraved conduct.”
Hestrin delivered what he called a “snapshot” of the alleged horrors visited on the children ahead of the first court appearance by Turpin and his wife, Louisa Anna Turpin, 49, who face more than three dozen charges that could send them to prison for 94 years to life.
Both are charged with 12 counts of torture, 7 counts of abuse on a dependent adult, 12 counts of false imprisonment, and 6 counts of child abuse, Hestrin said.
Turpin, 57, was hit with an additional charged of lewd act on a child less than 14 years old.
Hestrin said the alleged victim was one of Turpin’s daughters but did not divulge any other details.
In the course of the investigation, Hestrin said they discovered the family was living in a nocturnal hell.
“These individuals sleep all day and are up all night,” said Hestrin, who said they typically went to sleep between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.
They discovered that one of the few things the Turpins allowed the kids to do was write in journals and the hundreds they have recovered “are going to be strong evidence of what occurred in that home,” Hestrin said.
The captives were supposed to be home schooled, Hestrin said, but they were so clueless about the world “many of the children didn’t know what a police officer was.”
At least one of them realized this was not a normal way to live and began planning her eventual escape for two years before she climbed out through a window on Sunday with a younger sibling in tow, Hestrin said.
“There was two of them that left the house,” the DA said. “One of them turned back because she was afraid.”
But the other, a 17-year-old girl, kept going and called 911 for help with a cell phone she had found inside the house, Hestrin said.
The only child that escaped the alleged wrath of the Turpins was the youngest, a 2-year-old girl “who was getting enough to eat,” Hestrin said.
When police got inside the house in Perris, a city in Riverside County east of Los Angeles, they discovered a 22-year-old chained to a piece of furniture and two others who had managed to unshackle themselves, Hestrin said.
The rooms inside the brown-and-beige four-bedroom house reeked of urine, a law enforcement official told NBC News earlier.
All of the children, who range in age from 2 to 29, have been admitted to hospitals for treatment for severe malnutrition. They are receiving antibiotics, vitamins and nutrients, the law enforcement official said. Doctors were concerned about the kids going into shock since they are so malnourished. Psychologists will be brought in to evaluate them when their physical conditions improve, the official added.
The Turpins, who are being held on $9 million bail, had little contact with their family in West Virginia, and shocked relatives have said they had no idea what the couple was allegedly doing.
Louise’s sister, Teresa Robinette, said she was not in touch with her sibling but had no reason to suspect trouble. “We always thought she was living the perfect life,” she said in an interview conducted in Knoxville, Tennessee. “She would tell us they went to Disneyland all the time, they would go to Vegas.”
Robinette added that Louise left home at 16 to marry Turpin. She said the parents refused to let their children date or spend too much time with other children.
“They weren’t allowed to watch TV. They weren’t allowed to talk on the phone, have friends over, stuff like that. Normal things that kids do.”
The secret of the house on Muir Woods Road began to spill out on Sunday when the Turpins’ 17-year-old daughter escaped through a window and called 911 with a cellphone she took from the home, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said. She is believed to have a mental capacity below her age, the law enforcement official 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,” the department said in a statement.
It was only after freeing them that deputies discovered that seven of who they thought were severely emaciated kids, were actually adults “ranging in age from 18 to 29.”
This news report from north Texas details how neighbors remember the Turpin family when they lived there.
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H/T: NBC News