In a case that has shocked the nation, a 17-year-old girl reportedly escaped her own home on Sunday and pulled back the curtain on what police say was a nightmarish situation in which she and her 12 siblings were being held captive by their parents, shackled to their beds and malnourished. A neighbor said she saw four of the children a few months earlier, looking “very thin” and “very albino.”
Wendy Martinez, 41, a housewife who lives behind the single-story ranch-style home, told the Daily Mail she saw four of the kids kneeling in the front yard late at night around the end of October. Martinez said the children looked “emaciated and pale” and did not respond when she tried to say hello to them.
Martinez said it seemed almost as though the children were instructed not to speak.
“It was about 9 p.m. at night and we came around right here and at the gate, we saw four children inside,” Martinez said.”They were on their knees, four little kids, and they were just rolling on the grass. It was odd at that time of night.”
“Their mother was in the archway, I just remember the mother in the archway, and I said, ‘hi.’ There was like no movement, not even to look over to see who’s saying hi. No movement, like if they were told not to speak to anybody. The mom, no movement at all.”
When asked if she thought anything was amiss in the situation, Martinez said that it didn’t seem like anything was wrong, because the children were in their own yard.
“It was awkward that it was at 9 p.m. at night, but they were in their yard,” she said.
When police arrived in response to the 17-year-old’s 911 call, they arrested the parents, David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49. Thirteen adults and children aged between 2 and 29 were reportedly found inside the couple’s four-bedroom home in Perris, Calif., a quiet neighborhood about two hours from Los Angeles.
The girl reportedly managed to flee with a cell phone and called police at 6 a.m. on Sunday, telling them her 12 siblings were still in the house, some chained to their beds. Riverside County sheriff’s deputies quickly found her and reported that she appeared to be around 10 years old and looked emaciated, per the Los Angeles Times.
When the deputies arrived at the home, they reportedly found exactly what the girl had told them. They discovered “several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings,” an account released by the sheriff department Monday stated.
The report said the parents “were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in that manner.”
The Turpins’ children — seven of whom were adults aged 18 to 29 — “claimed to be starving,” according to the report.
David Turpin’s parents, James and Betty Turpin of West Virginia, told ABC News they were “surprised and shocked” at the allegations. They said the children are home-schooled, and that they had not seen their son and daughter-in-law in four or five years. The house is listed as the site of the Sandcastle Day School, a private K-12 institution with six enrolled students, of which David Turpin is the principal, according to the LA Times.