The discovery of a “house of horrors” in southern California back in January where 13 siblings were reportedly starved, tortured, and neglected for years brought up a disturbing question: How many more homes like this are there out there?
According to police reports, a boy escaped from one in Arizona on Saturday that is certainly reminiscent of the Turpin family’s situation. Employees at a Family Dollar in Tucson called 911 after a very disheveled boy walked in and asked to use a phone, according to NBC News.
When police responded and visited the home of 69-year-old Benito Gutierrez and his 64-year-old wife Carol, they found three other children living in miserable conditions. The four kids, ages 6 to 12, were reportedly locked up routinely for up to 12 hours at a time in separate rooms in darkness without access to food, water, or a bathroom, CBS News reported, and they were forced to sleep in their own filth.
According to Tucson News Now, the kids were also only fed by their parents once a day. Their alleged situation was not entirely masked from society.
"Neighbors who witnessed the children locked outside [the home] on a number of occasions would give the children food due to the children telling them they were hungry," said an investigator.
Police arrested the Benito and Carol, who admitted to keeping the kids in these conditions since 2011. Authorities were never notified until Saturday, and police say the boy who went to the Family Dollar store had escaped through a window.
As for why the kids never spoke up until now, retired child psychologist Dr. Anthony Luick explained, "So when you're in a situation like that, that's how you're raised, that becomes normalized for you. Especially, if they're secluded and don't visit friends and go to other people's houses. They don't know any better.”
People who knew the family were confused by the arrests. Detectives say the kids did attend school and eat two meals there every day. And they did get to play with friends, but always had to be back home and in bed by 5 p.m.
The parent of some of the children’s friends said he thought the strict early curfew was strange but never saw enough red flags to indicate to him that the kids were being abused. A friend of Carol’s, Linda Heffernan, says the reports about how bad the four children’s living situation was are misleading.
"I'm upset. I'm very upset. The people that they're being portrayed as is not who they are," Heffernan said.
The four kids were all adopted by Benito and Carol. Please pray they can find a loving, nurturing home!
On a more positive note, we have a happy update on the 13 Turpin siblings. Take a look.