PERRIS, Calif. — City officials could find no records that the fire department conducted required annual inspections at a California home that doubled as a private school where authorities say 13 malnourished siblings were kept captive in filthy conditions by their parents.
In response to a public records request by The Associated Press, Perris Assistant City Clerk Judy Haughney said Wednesday that there were no records of any fire inspections conducted at the home. The city's fire marshal, Dave Martinez, did not return repeated phone messages seeking comment.
David Allen Turpin and his wife, Louise Anna Turpin, were arrested Sunday after authorities found the malnourished children in their home in the Los Angeles suburb. The couple was jailed on US$9 million bail each. Charges that may include torture and child endangerment could come Wednesday and a court appearance is scheduled for Thursday, authorities said.
Deputies said some siblings were shackled to furniture in the foul-smelling home in suburban Riverside County. They were so malnourished that the older ones still looked like children.
The arrests came after a 17-year-old daughter who looked closer to 10 jumped out a window and called 911. Her parents had made the home a private school, a prison, and a veritable torture chamber for the siblings who ranged in age from 2 to 29, authorities said Tuesday.
Until the girl fled with photographic evidence, it appears no one — neither neighbours nor public officials — knew anything about what was happening inside.
The home doubled as the Sandcastle Day School, where David Turpin was listed as principal and its enrolment of six included only the couple's younger children. But no state agency regulates or oversees private schools in California. They are, however, subject to an annual inspection by the state or local fire marshal.
I want to reach out to the kids. I want them to know that for years we begged to Skype. We begged to see them, the whole family.Elizabeth Jane Flores, an aunt
"They weren't allowed to watch TV. They weren't allowed to have friends over — the normal things that kids do,'' the children's aunt, Teresa Robinette, told NBC's "Today'' show.
Robinette said she voiced concerns to her sister about the children's health.
"I always made comments to Louise when I did talk to her, about, gosh, they are so skinny,'' Robinette said. "She would laugh it off and say David's so tall and lanky, they are going to be like him.''
Few details have been released about how the parents kept them captive despite what appeared to be opportunities for them to leave.
Another aunt, Elizabeth Jane Flores, told ABC News' "Good Morning America'' that she tried for years to get in touch with her sister, Louise Turpin, but Turpin shut her out.
"I want to reach out to the kids. I want them to know that for years we begged to Skype. We begged to see them, the whole family,'' she said.
Riverside County Sheriff's Capt. Greg Fellows said there was no indication any of the children were sexually abused, although that was still being investigated.
The couple, married 32 years, sometimes dressed their children alike in pink dresses or Dr. Seuss T-shirts, kept them away from outsiders and cut the boys' hair in a Prince Valiant-style resembling that of their greying father. Photos show nearly all the girls with shoulder-length brown hair parted in the middle.
Myers reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, John Rogers, John Antczak, Christopher Weber, Andrew Dalton and Bob Lentz contributed to this report.