Horror parents plotted escape with 13 kids before arrest
THE parents of 13 children found starved and shackled to their beds in America's "House of Horrors" were preparing to "leave town" just hours before their arrest.
It is unclear whether their plans involved physically moving out of the area or something more sinister, such as murder-suicide.
The revelation may explain the timing of their 17-year-old daughter's daring escape last week after a lifetime of misery and neglect.
It emerged last night that the heroic teen, who climbed out of a window and called 911 on a deactivated mobile phone, told police she believed she would have been killed had she been caught.
David and Louise Turpin were arrested after police descended on their squalid, foul smelling house in Perris, California at 7.30am on Sunday morning.
Now a family friend claims that less than 12 hours earlier, the couple confided they were planning to pack up and leave after seven years at the Muir Woods Rd property.
"I saw them about 7 or 8pm on Saturday," the unnamed friend told The Mirror.
"They said they needed to say 'goodbye' because they were getting ready to leave town.
"They didn't say where or when they were going. I couldn't believe it when I saw their pictures on the TV two nights later."
The paper quoted another unnamed friend as speculating whether "the Turpins were saying goodbye for another city, or whether they were plotting to end their lives entirely."
The Riverside County Sheriff's Department has refused to comment on whether it is investigating a possible murder-suicide plot.
David Turpin, 57, a computer engineer, and Louise Turpin, 49, a stay-at-home mum, moved to California from Texas after banks repossessed their homes over outstanding payments.
After David lost his lucrative job with Lockheed Martin in 2010, the couple found themselves drowning in credit card debt and declared bankruptcy in 2011.
When authorities raided the Turpin home they found 13 children, aged from two to 29, imprisoned in filthy, stinking conditions, some chained to their bedposts and other furniture.
Medical staff have described the children as so emaciated they could have been mistaken for teenagers. Many of the siblings - particularly the seven eldest - were starved and neglected to the point of having suffered cognitive damage.
Only the toddler and the family dogs appeared to have been fed on a regular basis, authorities said.
Mark Uffer, the CEO of Corona Hospital, where the seven adult children are being treated, said his staff were "horrified" at the condition of the victims.
"It's hard to think of them as adults, they are so small," he told reporters earlier this week.
Before their arrest, neighbours had jokingly referred to the Turpins as the "vampire" family because of their nocturnal lifestyle.
They recalled seeing the children marching through the house in formation at all hours of the night and said that on the rare occasions they encountered any of them in person, they refused to reveal their names.
The siblings have told authorities they would stay up 5am and sleep all day. The only form of entertainment they were allowed was to write in their journals while shackled to their beds.
Police have seized hundreds of diaries and their harrowing contents are likely to play a crucial role in the prosecution case against the Turpins, who have denied all accusations of abuse.
The children have told authorities that their parents would taunt them with new toys and food.
They would leave pumpkin and apple pies on the kitchen counter that they were not allowed to touch and bring toys home that they were banned from playing with.
Locals recalled seeing eight brand new bicycles outside the home one Christmas but never saw any of them being used.
It is not clear whether anybody reported concerns about the treatment of the children during the seven years they lived at the address but authorities say David and Louise Turpin were able to hide their abuse by homeschooling them.
The case has prompted California State Assembly member Jose Medina to draft new legislation governing homeschooling to prevent other a repeat of the horrors seen in the Turpin household.
"What happened in the city of Perris was tragic, and it was horrific. And I would like to try to do everything I can to ensure that it doesn't happen again," Mr Medina said.
"One of the reasons this went undetected was because the parents could keep the children hidden from the public. So I'm looking at what the state can do, so that kids can no longer be kept in captivity."
Two million children in the US are homeschooled, representing three per cent of all American youngsters, according to data kept by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
The Turpins' 13 children had all, except the eldest, been exclusively homeschooled - meaning that, under California law, there was no outside contact.
Husband and wife have each been charged with multiple counts of torture, child abuse, the abuse of dependent adults and false imprisonment relating to the children aged from two to 29.
They pleaded not guilty to all counts and are being held in custody on US$9 million bail each.
Earlier this week Louise Turpin's brother Billy Lambert revealed the couple planned to have a fourteenth child and had hopes of getting their own reality TV show and becoming millionaires.
According to Mr Lambert, Louise had long dreamt of becoming famous and part of the thinking behind the move to Perris, California, was that it was close to Hollywood.
"She used to say how they would be perfect for TV and would often mention they would be bigger than the reality show Kate Plus 8," he told the Sunday People.
"It is the reason they moved to California - to be nearer to Hollywood."
Mr Lambert's claim about the couple wanting to expand their family was also supported by Louise Turpin's younger sister, Teresa Robinette.