Oldest of the California shackled siblings often bullied at grade school in Texas, classmates say
David and Louise Turpin in court as prosecutors seek to bar parents from contacting 13 children
The oldest of the 13 California siblings who authorities say were imprisoned by their parents was frail, smelly and bullied as a grade school student in Texas, two of her classmates say, one in a heart-wrenching Facebook post.
The now-29-year-old woman was rescued with her starving brothers and sisters from their home in Perris, Calif., on Jan. 14. Neighbours and relatives said they were unaware of the children's treatment until authorities arrested the parents and revealed what they found inside the home.
Taha Muntajibuddin attended kindergarten through Grade 3 with the oldest Turpin sibling in Fort Worth, Texas. After learning of the case, he shared on Facebook his "overwhelming sense of guilt and shame" over how she was treated.
Muntajibuddin, a pediatrics resident doctor in Houston who confirmed his post to The Associated Press, described her as "a frail girl, had pin-straight hair with bangs, and often wore the same purple outfit."
He wrote that it was jarring to learn that the girl, who was teased in school for being smelly, "quite literally had to sit in her own waste because she was chained to her bed."
"It is nothing but sobering to know that the person who sat across from you at the lunch table went home to squalor and filth while you went home to a warm meal and a bedtime story," he wrote.
The post has elicited a strong reaction, with some condemning Muntajibuddin for his behaviour as a child. Others praised him for addressing it.
Muntajibuddin said in an interview Tuesday that he was surprised by the reaction.
"It was just meant to be an honest lesson: take it or leave it," he said.
The AP is not naming the siblings because of the severity of abuse allegations, which are still under investigation. The AP also has not been able to talk to the children, including the 29-year-old, or anyone who can speak on their behalf.
Crowley Independent School District spokesperson Anthony Kirchner confirmed Muntajibuddin and the victim attended the same school.
Kirchner said he was unable to confirm when she enrolled or when she left the school, or whether any of her younger siblings attended, because districts are only required to keep elementary student records for five years.
'Slung around like a rag doll'
Another classmate, Stephanie Hernandez, told the AP in a Facebook message that the girl was quiet and always wore dirt-stained jeans that were too small. Hernandez said she often was bullied.
"I remember someone kind of slung her around like a rag doll," said Hernandez, a registered nurse in Mansfield, Texas.
Sheriff's deputies arrested David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 49, after their 17-year-old daughter climbed out a window and called 911. Authorities found the siblings, ages two to 29, in the family's filthy California home, three of whom were shackled to beds and all except the youngest child were malnourished.
The couple has pleaded not guilty to torture and other charges.
The Riverside University Health System Foundation, which is collecting money for the siblings, so far has received 1,500 donations totalling $120,000, spokesperson Kim Trone.
People from across the world also have been sending toys, blankets and clothing, she said.
Offers to foster and adopt the siblings
About 20 people, including nurses and psychologists, have offered to take the seven adult siblings and six minors and keep them together, said Mary Parks, a spokesperson for the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services.
"People from around the country are offering to foster them and adopt them," she said.
The siblings were all taken to hospitals, but Parks said she could not discuss their conditions. The agency typically seeks to place children with a relative and keep siblings together, she said.
She had this whimsical optimism to her that couldn't be dampened, couldn't be doused no matter what anybody threw at her.- Taha Muntajibuddin
Muntajibuddin said he is hopeful his former classmate can recover and live an enriched life.
He said despite being bullied by her peers, she "was still one of the most pleasant people I have had the opportunity to meet. She had this whimsical optimism to her that couldn't be dampened, couldn't be doused no matter what anybody threw at her."
He said he has learned from his experience and hopes others do, too.
"The resounding lesson here is a simple one, something that we're taught from the very beginning," Muntajibuddin wrote. "Be nice."