Wednesday 11 December 2019

Chained-up children were 'forced to march at night-time'

The Turpin family
The Turpin family
Members of the media work outside the Californian home (AP)

Harriet Alexander

The 13 children found chained and malnourished in squalid conditions in a California home were forced by their parents to march around the house in drill formation at the dead of night, a neighbour has claimed.

Mike Clifford, a 60-year-old aerospace machinist, lived opposite David and Louise Turpin for three years in Murrieta, where the couple rented a six-bedroom home between 2011 and 2014.

Described by their extended family as "deeply religious", the Turpins homeschooled their children and the youngsters were rarely seen in the community.

"We thought they were mentally disabled kids, so they kept them in," said Mr Clifford, who worked late shifts and would catch sight of them in the evenings. "The kids would be walking in circles like they were marching for hours at a time. It was military like."

Members of the media work outside the Californian home (AP)
Members of the media work outside the Californian home (AP)

In 2014, the family moved up the road to Perris, from where the alarm was raised by their 17-year-old daughter who escaped and called the police on a stolen phone on Sunday.

Mr and Mrs Turpin are due to appear before a judge in Riverside, facing possible torture and child endangerment charges.

Matthew Alex Padilla, a 20-year-old former Marine, said he was sickened to learn the woman he served pizza to had a house full of starving children.

Mr Padilla has worked at Leonardi's Pizza inside the WinCo supermarket for about a year, and said that he last saw Ms Turpin a week or so ago.

"Louise was in here every other day," he said. "We would chat - she was normal, if maybe a bit reserved. I've seen her buy food and eat, and yet there were 13 hungry kids at home? That's messed up."

In one of many surreal details that emerged as the investigation grew, it appears that an Elvis impersonator who performs weddings in Las Vegas is one of the few people who had direct dealings with the clan. He claims he saw a different side to the family.

"It's disturbing because I felt like I did know them," said Kent Ripley, the Elvis impersonator who led the parents through at least three vow renewal ceremonies in recent years - most recently on Halloween 2015.

He looked back at YouTube videos of the ceremonies after hearing the news, including two that show all the children dancing and smiling, with matching outfits and similar haircuts.

"Watching them now it's kind of haunting and disturbing," Mr Ripley said. "They all looked young and thin but I figured it was just their lifestyle. Maybe the activities they did, maybe because of their religious beliefs. I didn't get that in depth with them, but I knew they were a fun family."

The Southern California home had doubled as a private school for the siblings but faced no government oversight and was never inspected by education officials.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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