The details, so far, about the chained-up kids in California
Abuse dated back years, to when family lived in Texas, says district attorney
A California couple has pleaded not guilty to allegations they tortured a dozen of their children, kept them chained to beds for months and starved them so much that their growth was stunted and their muscles atrophied.
David Allen Turpin and his wife, Louise Anna Turpin, were arrested Sunday after authorities found the malnourished children in their home in Riverside County. They appeared in court Thursday and were each held on $12 million US bail. Their attorneys said they were still reviewing the serious allegations and declined to comment on any specifics.
Here are some key things to know about the case:
David and Louise Turpin were both born in West Virginia. They were married in 1985 in Pearisburg, Va., when she was 16 years old and he was 23. They lived in Fort Worth and Rio Vista, Texas, and moved to Murrieta, Calif., in 2010. They moved into their current home in Perris, about 98 kilometres from Los Angeles, in 2014.
Investigators are still examining the couple's finances, but David had worked as an engineer for both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin told the media on Thursday that Turpin was employed.
Louise identified herself as a housewife in a 2011 bankruptcy filing.
The couple renewed their vows at least three times — in 2011, 2013 and 2015 — in services presided over by an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas. They brought their children to at least two of those ceremonies.
The Turpins have 13 children between two and 29 years old. Seven of them are adults. Investigators said the siblings had been so malnourished that the older ones still looked like children. The oldest, a 29-year-old woman, weighed just 82 pounds, prosecutors said. A 12-year-old appeared to be the size of an average seven-year-old.
Their 17-year-old daughter had been planning an escape with several other siblings for two years, Hestrin said. Early Sunday morning, the girl jumped out of a window and escaped with another sibling, who got scared and eventually went back home. But the 17-year-old used a deactivated cellphone to call 911.
When deputies arrived at their home, the Turpins rushed to free two of their children — an 11- and 13-year-old — from their chains as the deputies stood at the door, Hestrin said. Inside the house, they found a 22-year-old chained to a bed, he said.
Most of the Turpin children were home-schooled but one of the older boys was allowed to attend classes at a local college, Hestrin said. His mother would drive him there, stay outside in the hallway during the class and then take him back home as soon as the class ended, he said.
Prosecutors said the abuse dated back years, to when the couple lived in Texas, and appeared to intensify over time.
Years ago, they would tie up their children with ropes. At least one of them had been hogtied. But after that child escaped from the ropes, the Turpins started to use chains and padlocks, Hestrin said.
Some of the children would be chained for weeks or months at a time and wouldn't be freed to use the bathroom, he said. Their punishments included frequent beatings and strangulation, the district attorney said.
The children were only allowed to shower once a year, Hestrin said. When washing their hands, if they washed above their wrists, they would be accused of playing in the water and would be chained up, he said.
When they weren't chained up, the siblings were locked in different rooms in the house and "fed very little on a schedule," Hestrin said.
The Turpins' home
From the outside, the brown-and-beige four-bedroom home in a quiet residential neighbourhood looked fairly orderly. Neighbours said they were not close with the Turpins and rarely remembered seeing all the children at once.
Prosecutors said the Turpins would buy food for themselves but did not allow their children to eat it. They placed apple and pumpkin pies on the table, let their children look, but would not let them eat, Hestrin said. The couple also purchased "a lot of toys they never opened," he said.
Prosecutors said the entire family would go to sleep around 4 a.m., sleep through the day and would be up all night. They said the children were allowed to write in journals and investigators are reviewing hundreds of journals they seized from the home.
David Turpin had been home-schooling his children at the residence, which he called the Sandcastle Day School. In the 2016-17 school year, it had an enrolment of six — all his children — according to state records.
Private schools in California are not licensed by the state education department and no agency regulates them. They are, however, subject to an annual inspection by the local fire marshal. City officials couldn't find any records that the fire marshal conducted the inspections.
The grandparents' visit
Grandparents of the children said in an interview their son's family looked happy and healthy when they last visited California six years ago.
"They were just like any ordinary family," Betty Turpin, 81, said. "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."
She said her son told her he had so many kids because God wanted him to.
James Turpin, the grandfather, said during their five-day visit, "they all looked to me well-adjusted. They weren't skinny or nothing."
With files from CBC News