Home is supposed to be a refuge from the world, but for one family it became a house of horror.
The nation was shocked after California officials on Monday announced the case of 13 victims, ages two to 29, who were found trapped and starving in their parents’ home.
Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the Perris Police Department discovered the children living in squalor, some of them chained to their beds in a foul-smelling room.
Law enforcement were alerted to the children’s condition after the 17-year-old daughter of Davie and Louise Turpin escaped from the household and called the police.
New details that have emerged paint a disturbing picture of what many believed was a picture-perfect family.
Neighbor Wendy Martinez told the Daily Mail of a strange experience in which she came upon four of the children “rolling on the grass” one night.
“It was about 9pm at night and we came around right here and at the gate, we saw four children inside,” Martinez said. “They were on their knees, four little kids, and they were just rolling on the grass. It was odd at that time of night.”
What caught Martinez off-guard was the family’s apparent reluctance to interact with her.
“Their mother was in the archway, I just remember the mother in the archway, and I said, ‘hi,’ “Martinez continued. “There was like no movement, not even to look over to see who’s saying ‘hi.’ No movement, like if they were told not to speak to anybody. The mom, no movement at all.”
The concerned neighbor said that when she saw the children less than two months ago, they looked “very thin and very albino.”
Many reported rarely seeing the Turpin children. Neighbor Andrew Santillan told Press-Enterprise “I didn’t know there were kids in the house. I had no idea this was going on.”
Nurse Janeece Calhoun told the Daily Mail “You know what, I drive past this way every day but I’ve never seen the family or anything. Never anybody coming in or out.”
Neighbor Michelle Wall remarked “You would think you would have heard them. In our neighborhood, kids are usually out playing, shooting hoops. Going to the park. I’m surprised I never saw them because most kids need to go outside and play.”
Those who were close to the Turpins were shocked at the revelation of the children’s treatment, for which the mother and father were arrested and charged with nine counts of torture and 10 of child endangerment.
Betty Turpin, David’s mother, told CNN her son and daughter-in-law would dress the children alike and line them up according to age to keep track of them when they went out.
“They were very protective of the kids,” the children’s grandmother stated. “This is a highly respectable family.”
Louise and David Turpin had a tradition of renewing their marital vows at the Elvis Chapel in Las Vegas year after year. They would make it a family affair, with the children present and dressed in matching outfits.
Kent Ripley, an Elvis impersonator who was pictured with the Turpin family on several of the couple’s vow renewals, told Fox5 Vegas he was “disturbed” by the news.
“I’m still disturbed,” Ripley said. “This is a sad day for everybody, especially the children, I mean they were sitting right around here three different times. They seemed to care about each other and care about the kids. They seemed to smile, the kids were smiling they didn’t hide behind themselves, they were very quiet.”
According to state records, the Turpins home-schooled their sex minor children. The family’s address was registered as Sandcastle Day School.
The grandparents described the Turpins as a very religious family, whose “very strict homeschooling” involved memorizing long Bible passages.
Mrs. Turpin stayed at home with the children during the day while her husband worked. Despite David Turpin’s $140,000 salary with defense firm Northrop Grumman, the family was between $100,000 and $500,00 in debt and filed for bankruptcy in 2011, the New York Times reported.
Dennis Cooke, who works at a Home Depot in Perris, said he had been shown around the Turpins’ home before the family moved in.
“This one was very beautiful, it was already tricked out with custom fittings, the backyard done, the landscaping done.”
But Cooke told Daily Mail the four-bedroom house was inadequate for a family of 15. “I would say a normal family, if they had six children, it could be adequate but 13, no. absolutely not.”
The victims were found malnourished and dirty, and were all hospitalized. They were given food and drinks and will be looked after by Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services once released from the hospital.
Neither David nor Louise Turpin had a serious criminal record prior to their arrest. They are being held at Robert Presley Detention Center east of Los Angeles with bail set at $9 million. Their court date is set for Thursday.
Sadly, home isn’t always where the heart is.