It's easy to
fool people into thinking you live a charmed life. These days, all it takes is
a Wi-Fi connection and a couple of selfies, but how did Perris, California, parents David and Louise Turpin, who were arrested January 14 on charges of torture and child endangerment,
trick friends and family into believing that their 13 kids were happy and safe
for so long?
The couple, as
reported by CNN,
shared numerous photos of their extended family on social media. Their
children, despite their various ages, wore identical clothing (based on
gender) and similar haircuts.
outsider's perspective, the family appeared to be loving and
peaceful, smiling as they celebrated birthdays, renewed wedding vows and
visited Disneyland together. But last Sunday, when one of the daughters escaped
from the home and contacted police, a horrifying truth was revealed.
police, the couple's 17-year-old daughter climbed out of a window and called 911 from a deactivated cell phone, telling authorities that her parents were holding her and 12 of her siblings
captive. She also had photos on hand to back up her claim.
Photograph by Riverside County Sheriff's Department
young girl's disturbing evidence, Capt. Greg Fellows from the Riverside County
Sheriff's Department told reporters that her mother seemed "perplexed as
to why" authorities came to her home.
police then recovered 12 victims who "appeared malnourished and very
dirty." Several of the kids were found shackled to their beds "in
dark and foul-smelling surroundings" and, although all resembled small
children, officers later learned that only six of them were under the age of
18. The children range in age from 2 to 29 years old.
So, how is it
that a family of 15 could slip through the cracks of law enforcement and child
protective services for so long?
"I wish I
could come to you with information that would explain why this happened, but we
do need to acknowledge the courage of the young girl who escaped from that
residence to bring attention so they can get the help they so need," Fellows said.
Betty Turpin, the kids' grandmother, defended the parents to CNN, saying they enjoyed traveling together.
"This is a highly respectable family," she told the news outlet.
Louise's sister Teresa Robinette told NBC that she was surprised by what she was learning and "heartbroken" for her nieces and nephews.
"I can't even say the words to you that I would like to say to her," she told NBC. "I'm so angry inside. I'm mad."
Neighbors told KABC
News that they never saw any of the younger kids. Those they did see, who
stepped outside on occasion to work on the lawn, would head back in together.
They were described as being "very pale-skinned, almost like they'd never
seen the sun."
a neighbor of the Turpins' previous home in Fort Worth, Texas, says she called their place "the
it was like a religious compound over there," she said. The family
home-schooled their children and "kept them away from anybody."
The new owners,
who purchased the Turpin's foreclosed home in Fort Worth said the condition of
the house was so bad they took pictures. They told reporters that windows were
broken out and boarded up, and that waste covered the carpet and walls. There
were also scratches found on the back of doors. But wait, the
story gets worse.
Not only did
David Turpin torture and abuse his 13 children, but he did so as "the
principal" of Sandcastle Day School, an educational facility he has been reportedly
running out of his home since March 2011.
Though the state
education department maintains they do not have the authority to monitor or
inspect private schools, their spokesman, Scott Roark, says, "We are
sickened by this tragedy and relieved the children are now safe and authorities
David and Louise Turpin have a court hearing scheduled for Thursday. Their bail was set at $9 million each.