The mother of 13 malnourished children who were found being held at a filthy, foul-smelling Perris home, some of them chained to furniture, was “perplexed” when deputies entered the residence over the weekend, a sheriff’s captain said Tuesday.
Louise Anna Turpin, 49, was arrested along with her 56-year-old husband, David Allen Turpin, on Sunday. The Turpins' arrest was announced by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department on Monday, exploding into a story bringing national media attention to the residential community some 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
On Tuesday, authorities answered questions about the case, stressing the investigation was just beginning.
Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Fellows, who serves at chief of Perris police, said conditions in the home were “horrific.” But authorities had never before been called to the Muir Woods Road home, where the family moved to in 2014.
After the “courageous” teen got out of the home before dawn and placed her emergency call, deputies came to meet her nearby, the captain said.
The teen, who appeared to be much younger than her actual age and was described as "slightly emaciated," showed the deputies photos that supported her claims that her siblings were being held against their will. The deputies went to the home to do a welfare check.
There, they found three of the children chained to furniture in a dirty home, Fellows said. The 13 siblings ranged in age from 2 to 29, but the adult children looked like youths.
“If you can imagine being 17 years old and appearing to be a 10-year-old, being chained to a bed, being malnourished … I would call that torture,” Fellows said.
The children's mother, however, did not seem to understand why deputies were at the home.
“It seemed that the mother was perplexed as to why we were at that residence,” Fellows said.
It’s not clear how her husband reacted.
The couple was taken to the sheriff’s Perris Station and arrested on suspicion of torture and child endangerment. Sheriff's investigators are preparing to turn the case over to county prosecutors.
The parents, Fellows said, showed no signs mental illness. Investigators have no details as yet on any religious organizations connected to the case, the captain said.
Fellows didn't provide many new details about the conditions in the house, only saying there was a "very foul smell" and the home was "extremely dirty."
The Turpins, who previously lived in Murrieta and in Texas, are being held on $9 million bail each.
The 13 victims, all believed to be the Turpins' biological children, are being treated at area hospitals.
"They're very friendly, they're very cooperative and ... they're hopeful that life will get better for them after this event," said the CEO of the hospital treating the adult patients.
The younger children were apparently students at a home school David Allen Turpin ran – as principal – at the house. There's no indication any children outside the family were schooled at the house, authorities said.