After realizing he attended grade school with Jennifer Turpin, the oldest of the 13 Turpin siblings allegedly tortured by their own parents, Taha Muntajibuddin wrote an emotional Facebook post — which he later confirmed with the Associated Press — that described the girl as frail, having poor hygiene and being a target for torment by her classmates.
Jennifer Turpin is now 29. She was rescued along with her other starving siblings from their home in Perris, California, on Jan. 14. The parents, David and Louise Turpin, were arrested and face multiple charges, including torture, to which they have pleaded not guilty.
Muntajibuddin, now a pediatrics resident doctor in Houston, attended kindergarten through third grade with Jennifer Turpin in Fort Worth, Texas. He described her as “a frail girl, [who] had pin-straight hair with bangs and often wore the same purple outfit.” Muntajibuddin expressed an “overwhelming sense of guilt and shame” over the way he and his classmates treated her.
He wrote that it was unsettling to read that the girl teased by classmates for her hygiene at school “quite literally had to sit in her own waste because she was chained to her bed.”
Muntajibuddin reflected: “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.
Reactions to his post have varied; some readers have praised Muntajibuddin for his speaking about and condemning his youthful actions, while others were angry that he took part in bullying the girl as a child.
“It was just meant to be an honest lesson: Take it or leave it,” he told AP in an interview Tuesday.
Anthony Kirchner, a spokesman for the Crowley Independent School District, confirmed that Turpin and Muntajibuddin attended the school at the same time. However, Kirchner was unable to determine when she enrolled or departed, or whether any of her siblings attended the school. Elementary schools are required to hold onto such records for only five years.
Despite her being an outcast at school, Muntajibuddin did have positive things to say about Turpin as a young girl, writing: “Jennifer, despite being vehemently vilified by her peers, 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 added: “The resounding lesson here is a simple one, something that we’re taught from the very beginning: be nice.”