The parents of thirteen children who were rescued from an abusive home in California face up to life in prison after District Attorney Michael Hestrin announced David & Louise Turpin face multiple charges ranging from torture and neglect, false imprisonment, and a lewd act on a child by force, fear or duress. They’re expected to appear in court at 4:30pm ET Thursday.
Authorities were notified of the abuse when one of the children managed to escape and call the police, subsequently leading them to the house and discovering the remaining 12 children in the most horrific of conditions.
Police said the house was covered in excrement and filth, and some of the kids were chained and padlocked to pieces of furniture – they were allowed one meal a day and just two showers a year. The children pleaded with responding officers to give them food as they were all extremely malnourished.
Now, residents of the previous Fort Worth home owned by David and Louise Turpin have spoken out about some of the sordid discoveries they made when moving in.
The owner said that they noticed scratch marks on the doors that they initially believed were caused by some sort of pet. But after hearing news of the abuse, there is a suspicion that these marks could have been caused by the children as they tried to escape the clutches of their abusive parents.
The current owner of the Rio Vista home also noted an old vent that had been boarded up in house’s master bedroom. “There are two vents in the closet and they are covered up now,” she said, believing that the children may well have been locked in there. The resident described the family, who lived there between 1999 and 2010, detailing that mother Louise was extremely strict.
“She never allowed her children to go outside and play. They homeschooled every one of them and one day they just up and left,” she explained. Neighbors described the home as a “religious compound,” according to the Daily Mail.
Rio Vista is a small town where everyone knows everyone. So neighbors were not short of stories about the family. “They were hoarders, and they moved themselves out of the house and moved into a mobile home they had here,” one person recalled, as reported by WFAA.
“Everyone was super skinny, not athletic skinny but malnourished skinny,” another added.
Another neighbor, Shelley Vineyard, said she was getting “concerned” that “something was going on over there.” Then, the family vanished. “Just ‘boom’ in the middle of the night, just gone,” Shelley said.
Vineyard, who lived opposite the Turpin’s, said that the house was in a horrific state when the family up and left.
“Trashed, everything was trashed. Dogs were stuck in the house eating dirty diapers,” she told WFAA.
“I pray that there can be some healing and closure for those poor kids.”
The children, aged 2-29, were found “shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings,” according to a police statement.
“The smell was terrible,” Deputy Mike Vasquez of the Riverside Sherriff’s Office said. “Feces and urine everywhere.”
“It’s what happens when people are chained up – there’s nowhere else to go to the restroom.”
Police were only alerted to the horrific scene when on of the children, a 17-year-old girl, managed to escape out the window and call 911 on a deactivated cell phone. After being interviewed by the authorities and showing them photos of the scene, deputies headed round to the property and discovered the starving kids.
They initially believed the heroic girl to be just 10 years of age due to her emaciated physical condition.
“We do need to acknowledge the courage of that young girl who escaped,” Riverside County sheriff’s Capt. Greg Fellows said on Tuesday.
More details have been emerging with regards to the family life of David and Louise Turpin. Louise’s sister, Elizabeth Jane Flores, revealed to Good Morning America that she stayed with the family in Texas around 20 years ago. She recalled the odd behavior of her brother-in-law, David.
“If I was to get in the shower, he would come in while I was in there and watch me – it was like a joke,” Flores explained. “He never touched me or anything. I was young, I was scared. I was in Texas where I knew nobody. I was treated like one of the kids, I had rules.”
When asked what she would say to her sister right now, Elizabeth replied: “I would want her to know that I’m praying for her salvation.”
Another neighbor told ABC News that he would see the kids “marching” from room to room late at night. When asked how long they did this for, he replied, “hours.”
“It was just like there were in the military, just making a loop,” he added. “My wife called them clones. They spoke robotically, in a monotone and at the same time.”
Louise Turpin’s other sister, Teresa Robinette, told NBC’s Today that the mother would laugh off the fact that her children were so skinny if anyone in the family commented on it.
“I always made comments to Louise, when I did talk to her about, ‘Gosh they’re so skinny’, and she would laugh it off saying ‘Well, David’s so tall and lanky. They’re going to be like him’,” Robinette said.
“(The children) weren’t allowed to date, or they didn’t have a social life,” she added. “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 sister also disclosed that neither Louise or David suffered an abusive upbringing.
“I’ve never felt such a different mixture of emotions. Like seriously I’m so heartbroken for my nieces and my nephews. I’m so angry, I’m so mad, I’m hurt. Our life wasn’t perfect growing up but she didn’t live like that. Neither did David, he was raised in a very wealthy home,” she told NBC News.
“As a matter of fact my dad was a preacher at one point when I was very little – they weren’t raised like this. I don’t know where it came from. I feel like it’s a bad dream.”
Police said that mother Louise appeared “perplexed” as to why the authorities were at their house.
David and Louise Turpin were each charged with nine counts of torture and 10 counts of child endangerment.
Before the hearing, the Riverside County District Attorney’s office will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. local time.