The thirteen siblings who were rescued from a California house of horrors where they were abused by their parents were allowed to shower just twice a year and were fed one rationed meal a day, it has been revealed.
The children, who range in age from two to 29, were rescued on Sunday after their brave 17-year-old sister climbed through a window of the house in Perris, California, to call 911. They were found shackled to furniture and lying in urine and feces.
Their parents David and Louise Turpin were arrested inside the home once police arrived. Their first court appearance is scheduled for Thursday at 9am.
As they await prosecution and as the children, who are so malnourished doctors fear they may go into shock, recover, new details have emerged about the horrifying conditions they were forced to endure.
Authorities in Perris have told Today that the children were scarcely fed and were dirty, living in a urine-soaked bedroom before they were found.
Several neighbors in both California and Texas, where the family lived until 2010, have come forward to say they found the Disney-obsessed couple ‘odd’.
But child protection services in Perris said on Thursday they were never once alerted to the home nor did they receive complaints about the Turpins.
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‘Not one person called us. How sad,’ Mary Parks, senior public information specialist for the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, told Desert Sun on Thursday as she, along with the rest of the country, lamented the torture the children faced.
One neighbor, who gave his name only as Mike, said he often saw the couple ‘marching the children in circles’ on the second floor of the home between midnight and 3am.
He told The New York Post they were like a ‘cult’ and that his wife called them ‘clones’ who spoke robotically and at the same time.
On Saturday, hours before they were arrested, the couple reportedly ‘said goodbye’ to friends and said they had to ‘leave town’.
They did not give any indication of where they planned to go or why they were leaving, according to one friend who spoke to Mirror Online.
Police and relatives of the Turpins remain at a loss over why they treated the children so poorly.
Brenda Taylor, Louise Turpin’s aunt, told CNN on Thursday how she believed the facade the couple portrayed on social media where they posted happy photographs of the family on vacations to Disney Land and at the couple’s vow renewal ceremony.
‘With the pictures they put on Facebook, you thought they were one big happy family,’ she said.
Taylor said her niece, who is now 49, married David when she was just 16.
When David’s parents last visited them in California from his native West Virginia, all seemed well.
‘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,’ Betty Turpin, 81, said.
Betty described her son and his wife as ‘model Christians’.
‘”It’s hard to believe all of this. Over the years, the Lord knows what happened,’ she added.
Her husband James described the children as ‘well adjusted’ and said they showed no signs of abuse. ‘The all looked to me well-adjusted. They weren’t skinny or nothing. They were joyous to see us,’ he said.
David and Louise are pictured in front of Disneyland’s iconic castle appearing to hold Tinker Bell. The photo appeared on Facebook in October 2010 and was one of multiple trips to the theme park. It is photographs like this one and others where the children appear happy which lulled relatives into considering them a normal family
Officials say all 13 of the children, some of whom are over 18, are now receiving hospital treatment and are so malnourished they fear they could go into shock at any time. They are pictured before the worst of the abuse is believed to have begun
Other relatives have told how Louise joked about how skinny the children were and trivialized their weight by saying they were ‘tall and lanky’ like their father.
‘I always made comments to Louise, when I did talk to her about, ‘Gosh they’re so skinny’, and she would laugh it off saying ‘Well, David’s so tall and lanky. They’re going to be like him’,’ Teresa Robinette told Today earlier in the week.
‘(The children) weren’t allowed to date, or they didn’t have a social life,’ she said. ‘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,’ she added.
While the children received just one meal a day, Louise frequented a local pizza shop where she would often buy herself a slice of pepperoni or a club sandwich.
She sometimes brought one of the children with her, a daughter, but workers at the restaurant had no clue how many other offspring she had.
‘Louise was in here every other day. Sometimes with her husband, and a few times with a little girl, but never more than one,’ worker Matthew Alex Padilla, 20, told the Telegraph.
Private: Relatives of Louise Turpin say she and David were not involved with the rest of the family and repeatedly refused them access to their children over the years. The couple are pictured in 2011 renewing their wedding vows
‘We knew each other, and would chat – she was normal, if maybe a bit reserved. I had no idea she had 13 children, because she’d only ever order a slice of pepperoni, or a chicken club sandwich with no tomato,’ he added.
She also did grocery shopping at Winco, a local supermarket.
Elizabeth Jane Flores, one of Louise’s sisters, revealed in a tearful interview on Wednesday that her brother-in-law ‘watched’ her in the shower when she was staying with the couple in Texas as a student decades ago.
Disney-obsessed Louise would visit a pizza restaurant ‘every other day’ to get herself a slice of pepperoni or a sandwich while her children starved at home. She sometimes took with her a young girl, according to restaurant staff
She said she did not see signs of abuse towards the children at the time but that now, reflecting on David’s treatment of her as an adult, she recognized his sickness.
‘If I was to get in the shower, he would come in while I was in there and watch me – it was like a joke.
‘He never touched me or anything. I was young, I was scared. I was in Texas where I knew nobody. I was treated like one of the kids, I had rules,’ Flores told Good Morning America.
Louise’s other siblings say they tried to see her and the children many times but that she was ‘private’ and always refused.
She was so reclusive and distant from her family that she missed both her own parents’ funerals but that they thought nothing of it because she had always been that way.
‘When this happens for 20 years and before the kids are even there, you don’t think it’s abnormal,’ she said. ‘If it had been two years ago, we would have thought something is not right. Even before children, they were real private.’
Robinette also echoed that the family had lost touch with Louise several years ago.
‘My parents before they died in 2016 begged to see her.
‘Even on their on their deathbed they asked to see her,’ Robinette told NBC. ‘She didn’t even show up to either of their funerals. So we have really no connection with Louise in a long, long time since we were young,’ she said.
Shock: Louise’s sisters Teresa Robinette (left) and Elizabeth Jane Flores have spoken out since the children were rescued to say they had no clue they were being abused
The new owners of properties the family lived in in Texas have also come forward to share disturbing photographs of the state they left their houses in once they moved out.
Scratch marks, stained carpets and closets that had been converted into cages were among the indicators of abuse left at the properties in Fort Worth and Rio Vista.
The new owner of the Rio Vista house told CBS that neighbors described the house, when the Turpins lived in it, as a ‘religious compound’.
They said none of the children were ever allowed to reveal their names.
David Turpin had worked in the past for defense contractors. In 2011, the couple filed for bankruptcy.
All of the children were homeschooled, including the ones who are now adults. Their mental capacity is much younger than their age, according to authorities.
Education officials in California who are alarmed by the story have revealed that no inspections were ever carried out at the couple’s home.
The law requires private schools to register as such. Once they do, the state department of education cannot legally monitor them but they must undergo a fire safety inspection.
In the case of the Turpins, no such inspection ever took place. It is not clear if the couple ever registered their home or themselves as a private school.
‘We are sickened by this tragedy and relieved the children are now safe and authorities are investigating.
‘Private schools are required to register with the state to record their students’ exemption from compulsory attendance at public schools.
‘Under current California law, the CDE does not approve, monitor, inspect, or oversee private schools,’ a spokesman said this week.
David’s brother, Dr. Randy Turpin, took time off from his job at the Valor Christian College in Ohio earlier this week.
When they were found by authorities, the children were all lying in feces. The adults among them are ‘so small’ police say they look like children.
Deputies showed no signs of hesitation in categorizing the abuse they suffered as ‘torture’. Further details of any specific injuries are yet to emerge but all 13 children are being treated in hospital.
Police say it is difficult to record credible statements from them because their mental states are so fragile.
The 17-year-old who saved the entire brood has however told them that she believed she would be killed by her parents if they caught her trying to escape.
‘In her mind, she was risking her life,’ a source told the Daily Mirror. She used a disabled cell phone to call 911.