The revelation of 13 starving siblings reportedly held captive in their southern California home by their parents has sickened the nation. Now even more disturbing details are emerging as a forensic team searches the house where police found some of the children chained to furniture.
The miserable living conditions of the Turpin children — ages 2 to 29 — came to light after a 17-year-old escaped through a window with a deactivated cell phone and called 911 on Sunday. When the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department showed up, they found the 13 siblings living in a dark, “very filthy,” and “foul-smelling” environment.
Their parents, 57-year-old David Allen Turpin and 49-year-old Louise Anna Turpin, appear to have turned their home into a private school in order to abide by California homeschooling laws but also to avoid contact with other homeschool families — or anyone else. Neighbors had little idea what was going on and simply thought the family was odd and incredibly private.
According to happy looking social media photos, the family took trips to places like Disneyland and Las Vegas, but more recently, they dropped off the internet radar and seem to have withdrawn almost entirely from society despite living in the middle of a fairly new, nice looking neighborhood. The alleged abuse, however, appears to have gone on for many years with the children in their 20s appearing to be teens due to severe malnutrition.
Now it’s been revealed that the siblings were only allowed to eat one meal per day, according to NBC News. Worse yet, they could only shower twice a year. The fact that investigators found the carpet in the home covered in urine suggests that shackling the children for long periods of time was not uncommon.
Neighbors did say that the kids were almost only seen late at night, going straight from the house to the large van in the driveway and back under the cover of darkness. They were also sometimes seen through the upstairs windows marching in single-file around the house for hours, according to ABC News. In the rare instances neighbors were able to talk to the kids, they replied in a strange, robotic way, all in unison — even the adult children.
Louise’s sister Teresa Robinette, who lives far away in Tennessee, thought the family was living a good life based on what her sister would communicate to her. But she did know that the adult children were not allowed to date anyone.
"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,” Robinette said.
Another of Louise’s sisters, Elizabeth Jane Flores, spoke of the regimented lifestyle she was forced to live in when she spent a few months with the family in Texas while attending college a number of years ago. She even told of times when she said David would watch her taking a shower as “a joke.”
David’s mother Betty Turpin, 81, was shocked to learn about the type of household her son is accused of enforcing. She says David claimed to have shared her Pentecostal Christian faith but did not attend a church.
“I feel they were model Christians,” Betty said of her impression of the family over the years. “They were just like any ordinary family. And they had such good relationships. I’m not just saying this stuff. These kids — we were amazed. They were ‘sweetie’ this and ‘sweetie’ that to each other.”
David and Louise are appearing in court on Thursday on multiple charges of torture and child endangerment, ABC News.
Please pray for the 13 siblings as they’re being treated for their malnutrition. 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 that type of situation.