The Turpins of Perris, California were on the surface a large and devoutly Christian family who may have looked eerily similar, but seemed otherwise normal.
Their resemblance to one another might have appeared creepy, but their lives in a nondescript Californian suburb south of San Bernardino did not attract much attention.
That is, until they were found on Sunday, emaciated and “shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings” in their family home.
The 13 Turpin children, who are aged two to 29 years old, were uncuffed from their beds and taken off to hospital where they were fed and examined by medical staff.
The children’s parents, David, 57, and Louise Turpin, 49, were charged with torture and child endangerment and taken to Robert Presley Detention Center.
Police continue to examine the rundown looking brown stucco house where the children were chained and shackled.
The home is in the Riverside county suburb of Perris, known for its Farmer Boys restaurant chain and — more recently — a rising trend in home foreclosures.
The Turpins were declared bankrupt seven years ago, WBC News has reported.
Apart from acting as his children’s home schooling principal, David worked as an engineer. It was the same home where the couple home schooled their children, and dressed the 10 girls and three boys in matching outfits.
Like their mother, all the girls had long straight brown hair. The boys wore pageboy cuts, weirdly similar to the style of their father’s long grey locks.
David is registered as the principal of their home school, Sandcastle Day School at the family house, teaching first to 12th grade. He was also once an engineer for a global security company, Northrop Grumman, earning $11,000 a month.
The Turpin couple’s 2011 bankruptcy appears to have resulted from a property foreclosure and credit card debt, WBC reported.
At that time, the couple had 12 children and lived in another Riverside town called Murrieta.
The Turpins, who both come from West Virginia, seems to have moved several times before purchasing the house in Perris.
In Facebook photographs, the children look like clones of themselves or their parents.
But they are all immaculately groomed and dressed, unlike the image painted by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department which said “the victims appeared to be malnourished and very dirty”.
On Facebook, the children appear to happily pose for photographs in matching clothes on trips to Disneyland and to Las Vegas.
In a series of images which appear to be of David and Louise renewing their wedding vows with an Elvis celebrant, the kids leap and wave for the camera.
The three brothers, wearing matching dark suits, maroon ties and haircuts. are jumping into the air on a faux Roman stage; their sisters, all dressed in maroon plaid, cream stockings and identical shoes, are doing the same.
In a shot taken at the Vegas resort Circus Circus, the entire family wears matching red shirts.
Another photograph shows all 15 of them wearing T-shirts proclaiming them to be “Thing 9”, “Thing 12” or whatever number corresponded to their order in the large family — a creepy reference to Dr. Seuss’ troublemaking characters Thing 1 and Thing 2 in The Cat in the Hat.
Friends respond to their Facebook posts saying “you have such a beautiful family” and “lovely family”.
Louise Turpin’s sister, who is a motivational speaker and author living in Tennessee, writes positive things about her sister and brother-in-law.
Both she, the Turpins and David’s parents appear to be devout Christians.
However, the sister said she had gone through “many challenges in her life” including “child abuse”. The family’s positive messages on Facebook have turned sour since David and Louise were arrested.
Facebook posters have called the family “sick, sick, sick” and “monsters” who would keep children locked up and surrounded by their own faeces and urine.
Some insisted family members must have known about what was going on inside the family home.
But David’s parents, James and Betty, of West Virginia, told ABC News they were “surprised and shocked” by the allegations against their son and daughter-in-law.
The couple said they hadn’t seen their son and daughter-in-law since visiting them in California four to five years ago.
Other people on Facebook suggested the Turpins had done a “good job” of hiding what was going on behind the ‘happy family’ facade.
Police were alerted to the children’s captivity and living conditions inside the single storey bungalow on Woods Rd in Perris, by one of the children, a 17-year-old female.
The young woman, who police said was so emaciated they thought she was aged around 10,
managed to escape from the house and call police on a mobile phone.
When officers arrived at the property they found the Turpin siblings — six children and seven adults — chained and padlocked to beds.
David and Louise were unable to explain why the children were restrained, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department alleged in a press release.
All the children will be placed in care once they are released from hospital.
Bail was set for David and Louise Turpin at $9 million each.
The couple will appear in court on Thursday.
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