• Starved, chained siblings to beds
American parents of 13 siblings who were starved and chained to beds in California have been charged with torture and child endangerment.
David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, were arrested on Sunday after a 17-year-old emaciated girl escaped from their house in Perris, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles, and called police. They are being held in a detention centre on $9m bail and are due to appear in court tomorrow, police said.
The couple have been charged with nine counts of torture and 10 counts of child endangerment, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office said. The siblings found chained to their beds in their family home begged police for food after they were rescued following a daring escape by their brave sister, it has been revealed.
The 13 brothers and sisters, including the 17-year-old girl who fled the home and alerted cops were all desperately malnourished and pleaded with officers for food and water after they were freed in Perris, California on Sunday.
Police said the victims were so emaciated they were shocked to discover that while all looked like children, they actually ranged from two to 29 years of age. Seven of them are over the age of 18 and six of them are children.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Office said it was not known how long some of them were chained, padlocked and shackled before they were discovered. The siblings were immediately taken to hospital after they were saved from the ‘foul-smelling’ room on Sunday morning.
The victims were only freed after their sister, who was so small officers initially believed she was only 10, broke out of the home, grabbed a cell phone and called 911.
Six of the children are minors, while the other seven are over 18, according to police. It has now been revealed that their parents filed for bankruptcy back in 2011 and were up to $500,000 in debt, despite David Turpin earning $140,000 a year as an engineer for a top defense contractor. His wife was listed as a stay-at-home mom. Records show the large family’s expenses exceed Turpin’s pay by just over $1,000 a month.
David Turpin’s parents, James and Betty Turpin of West Virginia, told ABC News they are “surprised and shocked” by the allegations against their son and daughter-in-law, saying they cannot understand “any of this”.
The couple, who live in West Virginia, said they had not visited the family for four or five years but had spoken to them on the phone, although not with their grandchildren. The grandparents described the family as very religious and said the parents had so many children because they believed “God called on them” to do so. They added that the “very strict homeschooling” would involve the children memorizing long Bible passages and even attempting to memorize the entire book.
The shocking allegations provide a stark contrast to the life shown on David and Louise’s joint Facebook page. They appear to have had marriage-renewal ceremonies in Las Vegas by an Elvis impersonator at least three times in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
Their children were present at the ceremonies are seeing posing for photos in 2015 in matching outfits for the boys and the girls. The 10 girls are all dressed in pink dresses with white tights and white shoes, while the boys are seen in suits with purple ties – and bowl haircuts like their father.
Footage of the ceremony posted online showed the smiling children awkwardly dancing and clicking their fingers behind their parents.
Another ceremony with the same Elvis impersonator in 2013, prior to their youngest child being born shows the children wearing the same outfits. Photographs from 2011 show the couple by themselves, but impersonator Kent Ripley said the children were in attendance that time as well.
‘I’m still disturbed. This is a sad day for everybody, especially the children, I mean they were sitting right around here three different times,’ Ripley told Fox5Vegas. He added on Today: ‘Nothing seemed to be unusual apart from the fact there was a lot of them. They were well behaved and smiled a lot’.