An emaciated 17-year-old California girl escaped her parents’ clutches and alerted investigators to a house of horrors where several of her underweight siblings were found shackled to their beds in “foul-smelling surroundings,” authorities said Monday.
The girl’s parents, identified as David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 49, were arrested Sunday on charges of child endangerment and torture after the teen called 911 from a cell phone she found in the family’s home in Perris, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said.
The Turpins were being held on $9 million bail and could face charges ranging from child endangerment to torture.
The teen who escaped told investigators her brothers and sisters were bound with chains and padlocks in the home east of Los Angeles.
She appeared to look 10 years old because of her condition, authorities said.
Officers searched the home, where they found 12 people — seven of whom were adults ranging from 18 to 29 years old. Some looked like children because of their deprivation. The youngest victim was 2, authorities said.
The children “appeared to be malnourished and very dirty,” according to a press release announcing the parents’ arrests. “The victims were provided with food and beverages after they claimed to be starving.”
An investigation revealed the children were living in “dark and foul-smelling surroundings” while they were shackled to their beds, authorities said.
The children were reportedly homeschooled.
The family’s home was listed as the location of the Sandcastle Day School, a private K-12 school where David Turpin serves as principal, a state Department of Education directory says. 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.
The school opened in March 2011, the same year the Turpins filed for bankruptcy in California, The New York Times reported. They said they were $100,000 to $500,000 in debt and had only $50 cash on hand.
David Turpin worked for defense contractor Northrop Grumman as an engineer earning $140,000 annually. He listed a 401(k) account from Lockheed Martin valued at $81,004. Louise Turpin was a homemaker.
The parents “were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in that manner,” authorities said.
All 13 victims were taken to nearby hospitals for examinations. Their conditions weren’t released.
Neighbors said the family was reserved and the children didn’t come out that often.
“They never got sun at all,” neighbor Wendy Martinez told NBC Los Angeles. “They would never come out, and when they did, the lady would stand there watching them.”
Another neighbor said she saw the parents getting arrested and the children dressed in pajamas being walked out of the home.
“They were very, very pale-skinned, almost like they’ve never seen the sun,” the neighbor told KABC-TV. “It was mostly girls … kind of small-framed.”
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