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Secret Horror in Southern California: What to Know About the Perris Child Torture Investigation

A 17-year-old girl's escape from a Perris home led to the arrest Jan. 14, 2018 of David and Louise Turpin

On Jan. 14, 2018, a 17-year-old girl escaped from a Riverside County home and showed sheriff's deputies the horrific conditions in which she and 12 siblings had been living. She revealed what authorities described as a torture chamber where the brothers and sisters, ranging in age from 2 to 29, appeared to be held captive.

After responding to the home in Perris, authorities said they found malnourished siblings shackled to furniture in filthy conditions, leading to the arrest of a couple accused of keeping them captive in the residence about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Below, a look at what the investigation has revealed.

  • On Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, Louise Turpin and her husband David Turpin were arrested. Louise Turpin appeared perplexed when authorities confronted her about why officers had come to her home. Felony charges, including torture and child endangerment, were filed Jan. 18, 2018. There was no indication that any of the children had been sexually abused. 
  • The couple purchased the Perris home in 2014. They moved to Southern California with 12 children from the Dallas area. The 13th sibling was born after the move.
  • The children ranged in age from 2 to 29.
  • David Turpin worked as an engineer at the Northrop Grumman aerospace company, according to the New York Times
  • The suburban Southern California home served as a private school and a prison for the siblings, authorities said. No state agency regulates or oversees private schools in California, and they are not licensed by the state Education Department.
  • There is no indication that anyone other than the siblings were enrolled in the school, called Sancastle Day School. 
  • On Jan. 14, 2018, conditions inside the home were brought to light when a 17-year-old girl jumped out a window and called 911, using a phone she found inside the home. She provided photographic evidence to authorities. The escape was planned for two years.
  • Deputies said some siblings were shackled to furniture in the filthy, foul conditions. They were so malnourished the older ones still looked like children, according to deputies. The eldest, 29, weighed just 82 pounds.
  • According to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case, the children were allowed to shower just twice per year and ate rationed meals once per day. The couple starved all but their 2-year-old daughter for years and sometimes chained their children to beds for months at a time without letting them use the toilet, prosecutors said.
  • Hundreds of journals kept by the siblings were recovered from the Riverside County home, according to the district attorney.
  • It appears no one, neither neighbors nor public officials, knew anything about what was happening inside. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department said they had no history of calls to the Turpins' address.
  • The grandparents said their son's family looked happy and healthy when they visited California six years earlier. 
  • On the "Today" show, Louise Anna Turpin's sister said the children didn't have a social life and weren't allowed to watch TV. The woman's siblings told NBC News they had not seen her in about two years and any contact they did have was by phone.
  • One of the siblings attended Mt. San Jacinto College in Menifee, but apparently never publicly divulged information about conditions at his home. A college transcript showed he attended classes from 2014 until at least 2016 and took up to 15 credits a semester. Angie Parra took a music class with the sibling. She described the young man as a "sweet, but odd introvert" in an interview with NBC4. Parra also said he was "famished" and recalled when he scarfed down food at a school potluck.
  • A Las Vegas Elvis impersonator appears to be one of the few people who had contact with the family. In YouTube videos, he can be seen performing vow renewal ceremonies for the Turpins, most recently in October 2015. The children also appear at the ceremonies.
  • On Jan. 24, 2018, a Riverside County judge ordered the Turpins to have no contact with the children.
  • On Feb. 23, 2019, the Turpins pleaded guilty to 14 felony county as part of a plea agreement that avoided a trial. Sentencing is in April.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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