Held Captive By Their Parents, 13 Children Found In California
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
And now a shocking story out of Riverside County, Calif., not far from us here in Los Angeles. Yesterday 13 siblings, six of them minors, were found in their parents' home, and they were emaciated. Some were shackled to beds. The parents, David and Louise Turpin, are each being held on a $9 million bail for charges of torture and child endangerment. Riverside County Sheriff Captain Greg Fellows detailed the scene at a news conference today.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
GREG FELLOWS: If you can imagine being 17 years old and appearing to be a 10-year-old, being chained to a bed, malnourished and injuries associated with that, I would call that torture.
MCEVERS: Member station KVCR reporter Benjamin Purper was at that news conference and has been following the story. And he's with us now. Hey, Benjamin.
BENJAMIN PURPER, BYLINE: Hello.
MCEVERS: Hi. So just walk us through sort of the timeline of what happened. How were authorities alerted to this situation yesterday?
PURPER: Yeah, so the Turpin family's been living in Perris for a couple years now. It's part of Riverside County. The 17-year-old daughter escaped the house on Sunday and called 911. She had found a cell phone in the house that was deactivated, but it could still make emergency calls. So she told operators that her 12 siblings were locked in the house. When deputies arrived, they found that all of them needed medical care. They looked emaciated. And some of them were chained to their beds.
MCEVERS: Was there any new information released at this news conference today?
PURPER: Well, they don't really have an explanation yet. It's still early on in the investigation, so they can't pin down a motive to being religious or mental health or a cult or anything that reporters were asking about at the press conference. Captain Fellows, who we heard earlier, also said they've never been called to that house before. So the only new information was that the siblings are recovering together in two groups. The children went to one hospital, and the adults went to another. Some of us asked if the children want to be with their parents or how they're feeling, but the hospital officials didn't really have anything to say about that due to privacy laws.
MCEVERS: And you talked to some of the neighbors of the Turpin family. What did they tell you?
PURPER: Yeah. A lot of them were replaying things that they had observed over the years. I talked to several neighbors who had tried to talk to the kids when they were outside in the yard. They would say hi and were met with silence almost like the children weren't allowed to speak to other people. They were also shocked just like the deputies were to find out that some of the siblings were in their 20s. They all thought they were much younger.
MCEVERS: The California Department of Education directory lists the Turpins' home as a private K through 12 campus called Sandcastle Day School. The father, David Turpin, is identified as the principal. Given what happened to these children, is there any indication of how this home could have been approved by the state to be a home school?
PURPER: Yeah. Well, in California, when parents want to homeschool their children, they can basically just fill out a form to register their home as a private school. The state doesn't have any authority over them after that point. So the California Department of Education issued a statement today to say that they don't monitor these schools and that they're sickened by what happened. Captain Fellows said that the school seemed to have existed just for the Turpin children, but they're investigating just to make sure that that's true.
MCEVERS: So what is going to happen to these siblings now, the children and the adults? And is there any information going forward with the court case against the parents?
PURPER: The siblings will be taken care of by the state for now. They'll get medical care and support. The state sometimes looks at placing children with family members, but they said in this case it's really too early to say. And the parents appear in court on Thursday.
MCEVERS: Benjamin Purper of member station KVCR, thank you so much.
PURPER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.