The story of 13 malnourished siblings reportedly held captive by their own parents in a dark, filthy home for years keeps getting more and more disturbing as details continually emerge. Now we’re learning about an escape that was two years in the making after conditions in the house went from overly strict to torturous.
57-year-old David Allen Turpin and 49-year-old Louise Anna Turpin were arrested at their southern California home by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department after a 17-year-old girl reportedly escaped from a window and called 911. When deputies raided the home, they found children from ages two to 29 who looked malnourished and much younger than their actual ages.
The family had been living in isolation in a nice-looking Perris, Calif. neighborhood with the kids rarely venturing outside the walls of the prison-like home. In the past, the family made numerous trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas, but more recently, their separation from society deepened.
Now we’re learning from CBS News that the siblings were planning Sunday’s escape for two years.
One of the more horrifying discoveries coming out of this case was that ropes and chains were used to hold many of the children in captivity. Three of the children were in that state when deputies came to the door.
"An 11- and 14-year-old were unchained as the police stood at the door while a 22-year-old remained chained to a bed when the police entered the home," Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin explained during a Thursday afternoon press conference.
He said the Turpin parents originally used ropes to tie up their kids as punishment over the course of years, but later turned to chains and padlocks as the kids became escape artists. And these punishments didn’t simply last hours or days.
Hestrin revealed that "One victim at one point was tied up and hogtied. These punishments would last for weeks or even months at a time."
The victims would have no access to the bathroom during that time, according to NBC News, which would explain the report of urine-soaked carpeting all over the house. The siblings were also only allowed to shower once or twice a year.
The parents would chain up their children for acts as minor as “playing with water” when they were supposed to be washing their hands. Not only were they restrained, but they were frequently beaten and sometimes strangled, too.
If you’re starting to see red while reading this, that’s a good sign you’re human.
Softer punishments included giving children toys as much-sought-after gifts — TV watching and friends were banned from the home —but not letting them ever play with them. Another method involved the parents buying pies, then refusing to let the starving children have a bite. Meals only came once a day.
Only the two-year-old escaped the harshest treatments. At least one young girl was reportedly the victim of lewd acts committed by her father.
"This is severe, emotional and physical abuse, there is no way around that. This is depraved conduct," Hestrin said.
The children, although supposedly homeschooled, were also deprived of knowledge of the outside world, with many of them not knowing “what a police officer was.”
The 17-year-old who escaped is said to have the mental capacity of someone below her age. A younger sibling slipped out as well but “turned back because she was afraid.”
If you’re not upset already, this next part gets even more gut-wrenching.
Not only are medical examiners discovering that the severely malnourished kids have suffered from stunted growth, nerve damage, and cognitive impairment, one 12-year weighs only as much as an average 7-year-old. And the oldest sibling, a 29-year-old woman? She weighs only 82 pounds.
Their parents are facing numerous charges involving child abuse, abuse of dependent adults, false imprisonment, and torture. If convicted, they could be sentenced to 94 years to life in prison. Investigators shared all this information on Thursday in hopes that members of the public could come forward with more details.
"We're looking at human depravity here," Hestrin said, adding that he didn't think the parents' religious beliefs were a factor. "This is severe emotional, physical abuse."
Please pray for these children. The amount of love and healing they need is enormous. In related news, famous kidnapping-victim-turned-activist Elizabeth Smart wants the public to know what type of psychological abuse the kids could have endured, and she has a strong message of encouragement for them and others in this type of situation.