One of the siblings rescued from captivity in their Perris home was bullied during her time in elementary school because of her stench and dingy appearance, a former classmate wrote in a poignant Facebook post.
The conditions the 13 brothers and sisters had been living in were unknown to the outside world until Jan. 14, when a 17-year-old girl escaped and managed to call 911 from a deactivated cellphone. Prosecutors — who have charged their parents with torture, false imprisonment and abuse — say the siblings were emaciated, dirty, undersocialized and had been confined in squalor for years when they were found.
An unkempt appearance that stemmed from the alleged abuse is why classmates at Meadowcreek Elementary in Fort Worth, Texas, chose to single out one of the children for merciless teasing, Taha Muntajibuddin wrote in a Facebook post.
The child referenced in the post in the oldest Turpin child, now 29, according to the Associated Press. KTLA is not publicly identifying the victims.
A spokesman for the school district confirmed Muntajibuddin and the victim attended the same school from Kindergarten through third grade, AP said.
Previously, it was believed the children were homeschooled for most of their lives, aside from a boy who was allowed to attend classes at a community college. Officials could not confirm whether any of the other Turpin children attended Meadowcreek Elementary or other district schools.
Muntajibuddin wrote that he felt an “overwhelming sense of guilt and shame” when he learned what his classmate had allegedly been going through during the four years she was branded the “cootie kid.”
“She was a frail girl, had pin-straight hair with bangs, and often wore the same purple outfit,” he said. “She was often made fun of by the other third graders because her clothes would sometimes look as though they had been dragged through mud, which she would also smell like on most days.”
The siblings were denied food, only allowed to shower once a year and tied up in the own filth with chains, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
Muntajibuddin was devastated to find out the horrible smell she had been bullied over was the result of what prosecutors call “extreme and prolonged physical abuse.”
“Of course, none of us are responsible for the events that ensued, but you can’t help but feel rotten when the classmate your peers made fun of for ‘smelling like poop’ quite literally had to sit in her own waste because she was chained to her bed,” he wrote.
Muntajibuddin — who AP reports is now a pediatrics resident doctor in Houston — had tried to look her up on social media but found no results. Until a few weeks ago, he said he had imagined that she was “living her best life,” showing her classmates “how far she’d come.”
Muntajibuddin’s post has garnered both condemnation and support, with some admonishing his bullying grade-school behavior and others lauding him for speaking out on the issue with honesty.
“The resounding lesson here is a simple one, something that we’re taught from the very beginning: be nice,” Muntajibuddin wrote in his post.
A second classmate who spoke with AP, Stephanie Hernandez, said the girl was timid, wore dirty pants and confirmed that she was often bullied.
Despite all that, Muntajibuddin writes that she was “still one of the most pleasant people I have had the opportunity to meet” and “had this whimsical optimism to her that couldn’t be dampened, couldn’t be doused no matter what anybody threw at her.”
The siblings’ parents — David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin, 49 — were expected to appear in court Wednesday as prosecutors seek to bar them from directly or indirectly contacting their children. The couple has pleaded not guilty to their charges.
The Riverside University Health System Foundation is raising funds for the siblings’ recovery as has so far raised $120,000, according to the AP. A separate fundraiser set up by the city of Perris has received nearly $25,000 in donations.