Parents arrested for torture after 13 children – some shackled – found in house
A couple from California have been arrested on charges of torture after authorities said yesterday that their 13 malnourished children had been held captive in their home, with some shackled to beds in the dark.
Authorities said they were alerted after a 17-year-old girl escaped on Sunday and called police using a cellphone she had found.
She was so emaciated that officers said they originally thought she was just 10.
The victims ranged in age from two to 29, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said.
“Further investigation revealed several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark, foul-smelling surroundings,” police said.
“The parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children had been restrained in that manner.
“Deputies were shocked to discover that seven of the victims were actually adults, ranging in age from 18 to 29. They were malnourished and very dirty.”
The sheriff’s office said the victims were provided with food and beverages after they claimed to be starving.
The parents, 57-year-old David Allen Turpin and 49-year-old Louise Anna Turpin, were arrested on torture and child endangerment charges with bail set at $9-million (R110-million).
The Spanish-style house where the victims were held is located in the middle-class neighbourhood of Perris, a small city 110km southeast of Los Angeles.
The home boasted three cars as well as a van with tinted windows.
One of the cars had a child’s seat in the back.
There are indications that the children had been allowed outside the house in recent years.
A Facebook page under the name of David-Louise Turpin includes pictures of the couple attending marriage or exchange of vows ceremonies from 2011 to 2016, with their children present.
In the latest set, uploaded in April 2016, Louise wears a long white wedding gown while her husband is dressed in a suit.
Nine girls, all with long, dark hair, wear matching fuchsia dresses with white tights, while a baby girl is dressed in a bright pink dress.
Three boys, their dark hair in “pudding bowl” cuts like David’s, are dressed in suits with red ties.
An April 2016 photograph shows the same smiling children and the couple wearing jeans and red T-shirts that read “Thing 1,” “Thing 2,” “Thing 3” and so on – a take on the mischievous siblings in the popular Dr Seuss book The Cat in the Hat.
Some of the children look gaunt, but not obviously so.
In another September 2015 photograph, Louise holds a baby wearing a T-shirt reading “Mommy loves me”.
Neighbour Jamelia Adams, 39, expressed shock. “It’s just really, really sad. There’s places that kids can go if you don’t want them, if you can’t take care of them,” she said.
“This is a beautiful neighbourhood, brand new housing track, newer cars in the garden, and here’s some kids who were held captive, malnourished and filthy. It’s heartbreaking.”
Another neighbour, Julio Reyes, 38, said: “We saw a couple of teenagers maybe last year mowing the lawn, and they put some Christmas decorations up.
“I never really thought anything of any sort would happen like that.”
US media reported that the parents had previously filed for bankruptcy.
David is registered in state records as head of a private school, but its address matches that of the Turpins’ home.
The school opened in March 2011 and only has six students, according to the latest state education department data. According to court papers, when they filed for bankruptcy in 2011, the couple said they had accrued between $100 000 (R1.2-million) and $500 000 (R6.1-million) in debt opening the school.
The case recalls previous kidnapping horrors that have made global headlines in recent years.
Ariel Castro abducted three young women he repeatedly raped for a decade at his Cleveland home.
He was arrested in May 2013 after one of his victims escaped.
Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped as an 11-year-old and repeatedly raped over 18 years by convicted sex offender Phillip Garrido in California. She was rescued in August 2009. Austria has seen two high-profile kidnappings – Elisabeth Fritzl was imprisoned and raped over a period of 24 years by her father Josef, while Natascha Kampusch was held for eight years by Wolfgang Priklopil before her 2006 escape. – AFP