California couple kept their two dogs in better condition than their 13 children
The California couple who are accused of starving their 13 children, leaving them so malnourished a 29-year-old weighed only five stone, kept two Maltese dogs which they fed significantly better than their children.
David Turpin, (57), and his wife Louise, (49), were arrested at their home in Perris, California, on Sunday. When police entered the property they found shackles on the beds and one 22-year-old still in chains.
The emaciated children, who prosecutors claim were fed once a day and only permitted to shower once a year, were taken to hospital, where they are still being treated for severe muscle wastage and neurological conditions associated with malnutrition.
But inside the house police found two small dogs that Joe Vargo, Perris city spokesman, said were in “good condition”.
He said both are female Maltese mixes, aged approximately one-year-old. One is black and one is white, and both dogs are available for adoption, Mr Vargo said.
The news of the dogs came as former acquaintances of the Turpin family began to piece together the strange life of the family.
Ashley Vinyard, (25), lived across the street from the Turpins when the family was living in their Rio Vista home in Texas. She told how around 10 years ago she played for several months with three of the children, Jessica, Jennifer and Josh, who were about the same age as her.
“They really didn't talk about their parents or family like a lot of other kids do,” she said, adding that they would play outside by the river.
“Every time I innocently asked them about their parents they would sort of shut down.
“I only met the parents a few times, the mother always dressed modestly, the father had an intimidating presence but quiet, he never said anything.”
When her mother asked the Turpin children their names, the children refused to say.
The next time Miss Vinyard knocked on the door, Mrs Turpin said that the children could not come and play with her, and she stopped seeing them from that point onwards.
When the family moved out, Miss Vinyard nosed around the empty house, finding a kitten dumped in a skip, which she adopted. The house, she said, was filthy and full of religious material.
“It looked like a cult house, it was kind of scary,” she told Mail Online. “Stuff like preparing for Armageddon.
“I remember not seeing any toys or dolls at the house.”
And a childhood friend of Mr Turpin's told his local newspaper that the father of 13, who grew up in Green Valley, West Virginia, was a nerdy, chess playing child with strong religious beliefs.
Mike Gilbert, (56), of Glenwood, in Mercer County, West Virginia, attended school with Mr Turpin and graduated with him in 1979 from Princeton High School.
“I haven’t see the boy since 1979,” he told his local newspaper. “For lack of a better word, he was kind of nerdy. He was always kind of a quiet guy and very intelligent. He always did real well in school, had real good grades.
"We went to Glenwood Junior High together and on from there to Princeton High School. He dressed nice and he wore bow ties on occasion."
Mr Gilbert said he couldn’t remember Mr Turpin ever being in trouble at school, and said he did not socialise with other students.
“No, no, he was never that type of person,” he said. “He kind of hung back and he was kind of a homebody - he wasn’t rowdy or nothing like that as far as I knew."
A copy of the 1979 Tiger Yearbook listed Mr Turpin as a member of the treasurer of the Bible Club, co-captain of the Chess Club and a member of the Science Club and Acapella Choir.
His ambition, he wrote, was “to take up a career in electrical engineering and invent the light bulb.”
And his motto was: “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow,” according to the yearbook.
People at the Mercer County Courthouse said Mr Turpin’s parents were valued members of the local community.
Jim and Betty Turpin have said they had no idea of the abuse, and the last time they saw their grandchildren, six years ago, all was well.
“Jim and Betty, they are two of the most wonderful, humble people,” said Todd Gray of the Mercer County assessor’s office.
“This has to be devastating to them. I can’t even imagine. They’re very faithful and attend church. They are the kind of neighbours anybody would like to have.”