Monday 24 September 2018

Inside the daily life of the California couple who 'chained starving children to beds'

  • Couple who allegedly tortured 13 children were Elvis fanatics
  • Believed 'God called on them' to give birth so many times
  • Family members kept away from the children - aunt had not seen them in 19 years
  • Turpin earned $140,000 a year - but they filed for bankruptcy in 2011
  • Family were well-documented on Facebook until summer 2016
  • 'We would talk on the phone - but she wouldn't let me talk to the kids' - sister
Louise and David Turpin with their 13 children, who were found chained to their beds, in a photo from their Facebook page
Louise and David Turpin with their 13 children, who were found chained to their beds, in a photo from their Facebook page

Harriet Alexander Perris in California

The US couple who allegedly tortured and imprisoned their 13 children were Elvis fanatics, believed "God called on them" to give birth so many times and refused to let other family members speak to their children.

David Allen Turpin (57) and Louise Anna Turpin (49) were said to have forced their children to memorise passages of the Bible during "very strict" home schooling sessions.

Family members were reportedly kept away, with the children's grandparents saying they had not seen them for around five years and an aunt saying she had not visited for 19 years.

The couple had renewed their vows with an Elvis impersonator marriage celebrant three times, often with their identically dressed children looking on.

The family had also filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and were said to have debts of up to $500,000 despite Mr Turpin's job as an engineer earning $140,000 a year.

The details emerged as a shocked United States attempted to understand how an apparently mild-mannered, middle-aged couple had allegedly committed such crimes.

Arrested: Parents Louise Anna and David Allen Turpin. Pic: Getty Images
Arrested: Parents Louise Anna and David Allen Turpin. Pic: Getty Images

The pair were charged with nine counts of torture and 10 of child endangerment after being arrested at their home in Perris, California.

It followed the dramatic rescue of 13 children aged between two and 29 who were discovered starving, with some chained to items of furniture in the "filthy" and "foul-smelling" house.

Police only made the discovery after a 17-year-old girl fled the property through a window, stole a mobile phone and alerted officers.

Many appeared far younger than their age because of the horrific conditions they appear to have been kept in, according to police. The children are being treated for malnutrition.

Louise and David Turpin with their 13 children, who were found chained to their beds, in a photo from their Facebook page
Louise and David Turpin with their 13 children, who were found chained to their beds, in a photo from their Facebook page

Greg Fellows, Riverside County sheriff's captain, revealed Mrs Turpin had appeared "perplexed" as to why police were present at her home but added there was "no indication" she was mentally ill.

A spokesman from social services said the children appeared to have been held for a "prolonged period of time".

"They've been through a very traumatic ordeal. They're very friendly, they're very cooperative and they're hopeful that life will get better," he said.

Until the summer of 2016 the family's activities were well-documented on Facebook; photos showed trips to the beach and to visit Father Christmas, and a smiling clan at Disneyland, wearing matching outfits. The last photographs, posted in July 2016, showed them gathered in what appeared to be Las Vegas with an Elvis impersonator performing a vow renewal ceremony.

David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, each were held on 9 million dollar (€7.34 million) bail and could face charges including torture and child endangerment
David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, each were held on 9 million dollar (€7.34 million) bail and could face charges including torture and child endangerment

It was the third time they had been photographed with the same 'Elvis', in the same outfits, at the Elvis Chapel in Vegas.

Kent Ripley, the Elvis impersonator, said he was "still disturbed" by the reports of abuse. "They were sitting right around here three different times," he said. [The Turpins] seemed to care about each other and care about the kids. They seemed to smile, the kids were smiling they didn't hide behind themselves, they were very quiet."

The Turpin family
The Turpin family

The outings appear to have stopped last July - five months after Phyllis Robinette, Mrs Turpin's mother, died aged 66 in Princeton, West Virginia.

Shortly before she died, Mrs Robinette wrote on Facebook: "Would love to come and see you all."

Mrs Turpin was one of six siblings, living as far afield as Guam, Georgia and Tennessee. Her sister, Elizabeth Flores, an author, has previously written about being abused as a child.

Yesterday she claimed she had not seen her sister in 19 years but knew something was "not right" with her parenting style. She added she was never allowed to visit her sister or speak to her nieces and nephews.

The 41-year-old, who lives in Cleveland, Tennessee, Said: "Something didn't seem right about her parenting but never would I have expected it to be like this.

"We have been so worried about them because it's been so strange but there was nothing we could do. They wouldn't let anyone visit and we didn't know their address.

"We would talk on the phone from time to time, but every time I would ask to talk to her kids, she wouldn't let me.

"My parents booked several flights to go see them but when they got there they wouldn't tell them where to go and my parents left crying every time."

Mr Turpin's parents, James and Betty who live in West Virginia, described their son and his wife as "deeply religious" and believed God had "called on them" to have so many children. They were in the Pentecostal faith.

They said their grandchildren, who they had not seen in five years, were given "very strict home schooling" and would memorise long passages in the Bible. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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