RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) – Authorities released new details Tuesday regarding 13 siblings ages two to 29 who were discovered by deputies being held captive by their biological parents at a home in Perris this week.
The children were found after one of them escaped at around 6 a.m. Sunday and called 911 from a deactivated phone, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Greg Fellows told reporters at a news conference Tuesday morning.
“I appreciate the courage that this juvenile had to escape that house and get out and report that to law enforcement,” Fellows said.
The 17-year-old girl fled through a window and met with deputies. She was so emaciated that they initially believed she was about 10-years-old.
“If you can imagine being 17-years-old and appearing to be a 10-year-old, being chained to a bed, being malnourished and injuries associated with that, I would call that torture,” Fellows said.
Based on photos and information from the girl, deputies conducted a welfare check at the home in the 100 block of Muir Woods Road, where they found her parents and 12 siblings — six of whom are under the age of 18 — living in dirty, deplorable conditions. The siblings were so malnourished many of them appeared younger than their actual ages.
“I am immensely grateful for that young child being willing to make that call to 911, otherwise we would not have had the opportunity to intervene,” Susan Von Zabern, with the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, said.
At least three of the children were shackled to furniture inside the home, Fellows said.
The parents, 57-year-old David Allen Turpin and 49-year-old Louise Anna Turpin, were arrested on torture and child endangerment charges with a bail set at $9 million each.
“It seemed the mother was perplexed as to why we were at that residence,” Fellows said.
The six children were then transported to the Riverside University Hospital System and admitted for treatment, whereas the seven adult children were taken to Corona Regional Medical Center.
“Well you can imagine the post-traumatic stress disorder if you’ve been deprived of nutrition for a long period of time,” said Sophia Grant, medical director of the child abuse and neglect unit for Riverside University Health Systems. I don’t know anything about the history. But if you’ve been deprived of normal childhood activity, normal interactions, and the people who should have been providing for you have failed to do so, that is going to cause some psychological damage.”
All 13 siblings are believed to be the Turpin’s biological children.
“It’s hard to think of them as adults when you first see them because they’re small, and it’s very clear that they’re malnutritioned,” Corona Regional Medical Center CEO Mark Uffer said.
“They’re stable, they’re being fed… they’re comfortable and they’re in a very safe and secure environment,” Uffer added.
Fellows emphasized that law enforcement had never received any calls about the home prior to Sunday’s welfare check.
“We had no prior contacts at that residence regarding any allegations of child abuse and neglect,” Fellows said.
The family has resided in Perris since 2014. Previously, they are believed to have lived in Murrieta, and then in Texas. The children were all home-schooled. According to the California Department of Education, the home was registered as a private school called Sandcastle Day School. David Turpin was listed as the principal.
Susan Von Zabern, director of the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, said that the agency’s practice is to first try and place the children with other family members. However, none have come forward.
It’s unclear how many months or years the abuse may have gone on for, Zabern said. At this time there is no immediate indication of sexual abuse and it is unclear whether any religious association to the abuse, Fellows said, and no indication of mental illness among the parents.
According to legal documents obtained by CBS2, the couple declared bankruptcy while living in Murrieta. The bankruptcy filing indicates David Turpin worked as an engineer for Northrop Grumman in San Diego.