As neighbors in Perris, California express their horror and bewilderment over the severe, long-term abuse 57-year-old David Allen Turpin and 49-year-old Louise Anna Turpin are accused of submitting their 13 young and adult children to, the Turpins’ former neighbors in Texas are opening up about the strange behavior they witnessed over a decade ago.
When the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department entered the Turpin’s California home after a 17-year-old girl escaped from the house, they found a living nightmare inside. Two kids and one adult were chained to furniture, urine soaked the carpet, the rooms were dark and foul-smelling, and the children were pale and starving.
Evidence and testimonies from the victims suggest that the children — ages 2 to 29 — were routinely tied up and chained as a form of punishment, sometimes being restrained for weeks or months without being allowed to visit the bathroom. Their parents allegedly beat and strangled the kids routinely and often pretended to give them toys and foods, only to take them away before they could have them. Photos taken during a few trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas give little clue to what life was like.
Contact with the outside world was highly restricted, and exposure to direct sunlight seemed rare. The family reportedly lived in a perpetual nocturnal state, rarely going outside in daylight and only all leaving the house under the cover of darkness. Knowledge of the outside world was also highly limited, despite the family’s claim that they homeschooled their own kids. Some of the siblings, when rescued earlier this week, had no knowledge of what police officers, medication, or pills were.
The abuse has reportedly been going on for years. The adult children, especially, show signs of lifelong malnutrition and have not seemed to have developed fully in their cognitive abilities. No motive for this pattern of treatment has been determined.
David and Louise 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. During a court hearing on Thursday, they both pleaded not guilty.
Meanwhile, the people who lived near the Turpins in Rio Vista — just south of Fort Worth — before the family moved to Murrieta, California in 2010 — and later Perris — are recollecting what life was like having them as neighbors.
Although Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin believes the abuse got worse over time, strange things were already happening in Texas. For a time, he says, the parents were even living in a separate house and would occasionally stop by the children’s home to bring them food. The oldest of the siblings probably would have been under 21 at the time and perhaps still in her teenage years.
The person who purchased the home after the Turpins abruptly moved out has shared photos of what it looked like when they moved in. Even with all the Turpins’ possessions removed, the condition of the interior is filthy, hazardous, and heartbreaking despite the upscale exterior of the house.
One former neighbor, Shelli Vinyard, felt like something wasn’t right and that “something’s going on over there.” She described the Turpins’ home as “the compound” for how much it kept the family “closed off from the society.”
When the family left, Vinyard said “everything was trashed” in the house and there were “dogs stuck in the house eating dirty diapers.” She also found many, many cans of Vienna sausages, leading her to think they were daily staple for the kids.
According to ABC affiliate WFFA 8, Vinyard said she wasn’t the only person in the neighborhood talking about “those weird neighbors.” The Turpins appear to have lived in that community for at least 11 years.
Vinyard herself found the siblings to be non-communicative, not willing to even give her their names. Her account matches those of the Turpin’s California neighbors who said the kids — even the adult ones — would either freeze in place when spoken to or answer in robotic unison as if carefully coached to make only practiced replies.
"I pray there can be some healing and closure for those poor kids," Vinyard said.
Please pray for them, too! One of Louise’s sisters has also spoken out about what it was like living in the Texas home for a few months, and kidnapping-victim-turned-activist Elizabeth Smart is offering insight for the public and encouragement for the victims.