A California couple has been charged with torture after police rescued after police rescued their 13 malnourished children from a home where some of them had been chained to beds, and neighbors on Monday described the family as shut-ins who shunned social contact.
Police made the discovery after a 17-year-old girl escaped the house in Perris, about 70 miles (113 km) east of Los Angeles, and used a cellular phone she had found in the house to call them, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office said on Monday.
The children ranged in age from 2 to 29, police said.
The parents, David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, were arrested and each charged with nine counts of torture and 10 counts of child endangerment. They were ordered held on $9 million bail each.
The couple appeared in court hours after prosecutors detailed the horrific abuse allegations against them.
Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said the couple had allegedly punished their children by tying them up – first using ropes and later chaining them to their beds with padlocks.
He said the alleged punishments would last weeks or months, and intensified over time.
The children were allowed to shower just once per year and punished “for playing with water” if they washed their hands above the wrist, he said. They were up at night and slept during the day. They had not seen a doctor in four years and never saw a dentist.
The 13 were supposedly home-schooled but some of the older ones remained unaware of concepts such as pills, medicine and police officers. The parents did however encourage the children to keep journals – hundreds of which will provide evidence in court, said Hestrin. “I think those journals are going to be strong evidence of what occurred in that home.”
David Turpin earned $140,000 as an engineer at the global security company Northrop Grumman but the couple filed for bankruptcy in 2011.
The abuse started while the family lived in Texas and intensified after it moved to California in 2010, said Hestrin.