Girl Who Fled Parents Called Cops Using Deactivated Phone

Home-school law criticized in horrific California case
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2018 4:40 AM CST
13 Rescued Siblings Face Long Recovery
These Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, photos provided by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department show Louise Anna Turpin, left, and David Allen Turpin.   (Riverside County Sheriff's Department via AP)

The 13 siblings rescued from captivity in a California home were so badly treated that mental and physical recovery is likely to take a very long time, experts say. Corona Regional Medical Center CEO Mark Uffer says his staff was horrified by the condition of the seven adults in the group, who were so malnourished that they were mistaken for children. Sophia Grant, medical director of the child abuse unit at Riverside University Health System, tells the Press-Enterprise that such stunting of growth would have required malnourishment over a long period. She says recovery will be a gradual process for the siblings, who have likely suffered psychological damage from being deprived of normal interaction and from being mistreated by the parents who were supposed to provide for them. In other developments:

  • Home-schooling. Father David Turpin, a former engineer at the Northrop Grumman aerospace company registered to run a private school out of his home, was required only to submit a form every year. Advocates for greater oversight of home-schooling in California say the abuse could have been exposed much earlier if the children had been required to have annual checkups from doctors and teachers, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Current law provides nothing to stop families like the Turpins from using home-schooling to isolate and imprison their children," says Rachel Coleman of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education.

  • No record of abuse. Authorities in Texas and California say parents David and Louise Turpin, who face charges of torture and child endangerment, have no record of prior arrests for child abuse, Reuters reports. The couple, who have been married for 32 years, moved from the Dallas area to California in 2011 and bought a home in Perris in 2014. They are due to appear before a judge on Thursday.
  • Motive unknown. "I wish I could come to you today with information that would explain why this happened,” Greg Fellows of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department told reporters Tuesday, per the Guardian. He praised the courage of the 17-year-old girl who escaped the residence in Perris and contacted authorities.
  • "God called on them." David Turpin's parents tell ABC from their home in West Virginia that they hadn't seen the children in years but they spoke to their son monthly and they are "surprised and shocked" by the charges. They say they knew their grandchildren were given "very strict home schooling" that included memorization of Bible passages. They say the couple had so many children because "God called on them."

  • Deactivated cellphone. Police say the girl who escaped contacted them on a deactivated cellphone that could still call 911, the Press-Enterprise reports. They say the girl, who escaped the home through a window early Sunday, showed them photographs that convinced them her siblings, aged from 2 to 29, were being abused. Police say that inside the home, they found three children chained and padlocked to furniture.
  • Elvis impersonator "sickened." Kent Ripley, an Elvis impersonator who officiated at vow-renewal ceremonies for the Turpins in 2013, 2015, and 2016, tells the New York Daily News that he is stunned and sickened by the abuse. He says he remembered the siblings as "soft-spoken and well-mannered" young people who seemed to share a strong bond. "I'm hoping they do stick together and make this the beginning of a better life for themselves," he says. “My prayers are for the children. I hope that they can pick up the pieces."
  • "Very friendly." At Corona Regional Medical Center, Uffer tells the AP that despite their ordeal, the siblings are still very friendly. "They're very cooperative, and I believe that they're hopeful that life will get better for them after this event," he says.
(Read more child abuse stories.)

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