It sounds like something from a movie: 13 brothers and sisters were being held captive by their parents, some bound with chains and padlocks, until one of them — a 17-year-old girl — escaped and called 911.
The M. Night Shyamalan-like twist, which has gone under the radar in much of the media coverage related to this tragedy, is that the parents were reportedly considered a “good Christian family” within their community.
David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin were arrested after police discovered their children (aged between 2 and 29) being tortured and chained to beds in their home in Perris, California.
The Turpins hadn’t been investigated by Child Protective Services, and were only exposed after the one daughter escaped.
Further investigation revealed several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings, but the parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in that manner. Deputies located what they believed to be 12 children inside the house, but were shocked to discover that 7 of them were actually adults, ranging in age from 18 to 29. The victims appeared to be malnourished and very dirty. Perris Station Detectives were dispatched to the residence for further investigation.
Fortunately, the starving victims — six minors and seven adults — were fed and taken to a hospital. Both parents were booked and charged with violating sections of the California Penal Code dealing with torture and child endangerment, with a bail of $9 million each.
Even though seven of the victims are technically adults, the damage was so bad that they didn’t appear that way.
Although the Riverside University Health System declined to describe the minors’ condition, Corona Regional Medical Center CEO Mark Uffer said the seven adults are “stable and they’re being fed.”
“It’s hard to think of them as adults when you first see them because they’re small, and it’s clear they’re malnutritioned,” Uffer said at Tuesday’s news conference.
According to David Turpin’s parents, James and Betty Turpin, their son and daughter-in-law were “a good Christian family” that had so many children because God commanded them to. (If only he had commanded them to care for the kids, we wouldn’t be in this mess.)
The distraught grandparents added that David and Louise Turpin are considered a good Christian family in their community, saying they can’t understand “any of this.”
The arrested couple’s parents also said the children were given “very strict homeschooling,” and that the children would memorize long passages of the bible. Some of the kids’ goal was to memorize it in its entirety, the couple said.
It’s true that the Bible instructs believers to be fruitful and multiply, and that there are some passages that can be interpreted as condoning the couple’s behavior, but there are also some contradictory pieces of scripture. (What?! Contradictory verses in the Bible?! I know. I’m also shocked.)
Fortunately, our government hasn’t turned into a theocracy yet, and our secular justice system doesn’t tolerate abusing children like this regardless of what people believe and how well respected they are within the Christian community. Let’s hope they get the punishment they deserve and finally get the message that religion never gives you a license to hurt your kids. And may their kids get well soon and find homes where they’re given the love and attention they deserve.