PERRIS, Calif. (WKBN/KRON/AP) – Over the weekend, 13 siblings were freed from their parents’ California home, where they were held captive, according to police. Investigators said some had been bound to their beds with chains and padlocks.
Police said the victims, ranging in age from 2 to 29 years old, were discovered in the Riverside County town of Perris, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
A 17-year-old girl escaped the home early Sunday morning and was able to call 911 from a cell phone she found inside the house, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Officers said the teen looked like she was only 10 years old and appeared to be very thin.
Inside the house, police said they found several children shackled to their beds, and noticed it was dark and smelled bad.
Initially, police thought they rescued 12 children from the house but said they were “shocked” to find out that seven of the victims were actually over the age of 18. Investigators said they were all very dirty and appeared to be malnourished.
Investigators interviewed the 13 victims, who claimed to be starving. They were given food and drink, and taken to the hospital for examinations and treatment.
The parents, 57-year-old David Allen Turpin and 49-year-old Louise Anna Turpin, couldn’t give a good reason as to why their children were restrained, the sheriff’s department 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.
Both parents were taken to jail and charged with torture and child endangerment. Their bail has been set at $9 million each.
It wasn’t immediately known if they had attorneys.