Children found chained and starving in home

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David and Louise Turpin are pictured with their 13 children in April 2016. (Facebook via Fox News)

In a disturbing case, police rescued 13 people from horrific conditions in a California home, several of them shackled to beds.

Things started unfolding on Sunday morning when a 17-year-old girl said she had escaped her home in Riverside County and managed to call 911 from a cell phone she found inside the house.  The teenager claimed her 12 brothers and sisters were being held captive by her parents. 

When police met with the girl she appeared to be only 10 years old and slightly emaciated. Police contacted 57-year old David Allen Turpin and 49-year old Louise Anna Turpin at the home where the teenager escaped. 

Police found several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings.  They found what they believed to be 12 children inside the house, but were shocked to discover that 7 of them were actually adults, ranging in age from 18 to 29. The victims appeared to be malnourished and very dirty.


All 13 victims, as young as 2-years-old, were taken to a police station and interviewed.  The victims were provided with food and drinks after they said they were starving. 

The six children were eventually transported to a hospital for medical examinations and admitted for treatment. The seven adults were admitted to another hospital. 

Both parents were arrested and booked torture and child endangerment charges. Bail was set at $9 million each.  It was unclear if they had lawyers.

State Department of Education records show the family home has the same address as Sandcastle Day School, where David Turpin is listed as principal. In the 2016-17 school year it had an enrollment of six with one student in each of the fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth, 10th and 12th grades.

Neighbors said they were stunned by the arrests. Andrew Santillan, who lives around the corner, heard about the case from a friend.

"I had no idea this was going on," he told the Press-Enterprise of Riverside. "I didn't know there were kids in the house."

Other neighbors described the family as intensely private.

A few years ago, Robert Perkins said he and his mother saw a few family members constructing a Nativity scene in the Turpins' front yard. Perkins said he complimented them on it.

"They didn't say a word," he said.

Social media photos show the family at Disneyland and Las Vegas. The most recent shots, from 2016, show the parents beaming after they apparently renewed their wedding vows and posed with an Elvis impersonator.

James Turpin, of Princeton, West Virginia, said Tuesday that he was surprised by the news reports about his son David. All 13 children are David's biological children. None are adopted, he said.

Turpin said he first heard about the matter Monday night in a call from a reporter. He declined to talk further.

"We're going to try to get to the bottom of it," he told The Associated Press.

He and his wife, Betty, told Wheeling, West Virginia, television station WTRF that David grew up in southern West Virginia.

The family moved to Southern California in 2011 from Johnson County, Texas, near Dallas, according to property records.

The Turpins filed for bankruptcy that same year, stating in court documents they owed between $100,000 and $500,000. At that time, Turpin worked as an engineer at Northrop Grumman and earned $140,000 annually and his wife was a homemaker, records showed.

Their bankruptcy lawyer, Ivan Trahan, told the New York Times he never met the children but the couple "spoke about them highly."

"We remember them as a very nice couple," Trahan said, adding that Louise Turpin told him the family loved Disneyland and visited often.

Fox News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.