(Adds sheriff’s news conference, comments from former attorney)
By Alan Devall and Bob Mezan
PERRIS, Calif., Jan 16 (Reuters) - The 13 California siblings kept in “horrific” conditions by their parents, including some who were shackled to furniture, others who were starved, were being treated after an ordeal that could leave them scarred for years, authorities said on Tuesday.
Police were investigating the circumstances under which the parents, David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, had subjected their children to the abuse, Captain Greg Fellows of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said.
The couple was arrested on Sunday and each charged with nine counts of torture and 10 counts of child endangerment, the sheriff’s office said. They were each held on $9 million bail, with a court hearing scheduled for Thursday.
Authorities were alerted after one of the children, an emaciated, 17-year-old girl, called police after escaping through a window of the house in Perris, about 70 miles (115 km) east of Los Angeles.
“I appreciate the courage this juvenile had to escape that house and get out there and report this to law enforcement,” Fellows said.
Police said they found three of the couple’s 13 children, who range in age from 2 to 29, shackled with chains and padlocks inside the dark, foul-smelling residence, located in a suburban housing tract.
“(Police) noticed the children were malnourished,” Fellows said at a briefing. “It was very dirty, and the conditions were horrific.”
Authorities were seeking court authorization to take custody of the children. Child Protective Services was assisting in an investigation.
Some of the children were being fed and in stable condition at a local hospital, officials said.
The family has lived at the house since 2014, where they home-schooled their children, Fellows said. Six of the couple’s children are minors, while the other seven are over 18, according to neighbors.
Kimberly Milligan, 50, who lives across the street from the family, said she only saw the infant in the mother’s arms and three other children since she moved in across the street two years ago, describing them as small and pale.
“Why don’t we ever see the kids?” Milligan said she asked herself. “In hindsight, we would have never thought this. But there were red flags. You never don’t hear or see nine kids.”
Two years ago, while walking around the neighborhood admiring Christmas lights and decorations, Milligan said she had encountered three of the Turpin children and complimented them on the manger with a baby Jesus set up outside the house. She said the children froze, as if by doing so they could become invisible.
“Twenty-year-olds never act like that,” she said. “They didn’t want to have a social conversation.”
Nicole Gooding, 35, who has lived in the neighborhood for three years, said the first time she saw the family was two months ago when the mother and children were cleaning up the yard that was full of weeds and overflowing trash cans.
“I had never seen them at all until that day,” she said.
The parents home-schooled the children strictly and required them to memorize long passages from the Bible, David Turpin’s parents, James and Betty Turpin of West Virginia, told ABC News.
The Turpin address was listed by the California Department of Education as the location of the Sandcastle Day School, with David Turpin as principal.
In 2010, David Turpin left his job at Lockheed Martin , a company spokeswoman said. He also worked as an engineer at Northrop Grumman, the aeronautics and defense company.
Unable to keep up with the family’s expenses, Ivan Trahan, a California attorney who represented him, told Reuters on Tuesday, that Turpin filed for bankruptcy in 2011. At the time, the lawyer said the couple spoke highly of their children. A spokesman for Northrop declined to say if Turpin was currently employed there. “We are deeply troubled by the nature of the allegations against Mr. Turpin,” Northrop spokesman Mark Root said in a statement.
David and Louise Turpin appeared to have had marriage-renewal ceremonies at least three times, in 2011, 2013 and 2015, at an Elvis Presley-themed chapel in Las Vegas, according to the chapel’s YouTube page. One video shows the couple exchanging renewal vows in front of an Elvis impersonator.
Another video showed 10 female children in matching purple plaid dresses walking down the aisle ahead of Louise toward David, who waited anxiously at the altar with two male children in suits.
A third male child dressed in a suit appeared later in the video during various dance performances with the Elvis impersonator and the family.
An Elvis Chapel representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A joint Facebook page that appeared to have been created by the parents showed the couple at the same chapel dressed in wedding clothes, surrounded by the 13 children.
David Turpin’s parents, James and Betty Turpin of West Virginia, told ABC News they were “surprised and shocked” by the allegations, saying they could not understand “any of this.” (Additional reporting by Chris Kenning in Chicago, Brendan O‘Brien in Milwaukee and Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Jonathan Oatis)