When they arrived police officers found a filthy and foul-smelling home. Many of the children, who are between ages 2 and 29 years old, were so emaciated that they looked several years younger.
The gruesome and extensive abuse stretched back at least seven years, Mr. Hestrin said at a news conference here on Thursday morning. The children were only allowed to bathe once a year — if they washed their arms above their wrists, they were accused of “playing in water” and chained to their beds as punishment, Mr. Hestrin said.
“The victims were often not released from their chain to go to the bathroom,” he added.
They were forced to stay up all night and sleep during the day and given a tiny amount of food on a strict schedule — a 29-year-old woman who escaped weighed just 82 pounds and a 12-year-old sibling was the size of a 7-year-old. The 2-year-old child did not appear to be abused, Mr. Hestrin said. It appears that all 13 siblings are the Turpins biological children, he said.
Mr. Hestrin said that many of the children appear to have cognitive delays and show evidence of nerve damage from “extreme and prolonged physical abuse.”
The entire family stayed awake all night, usually going to sleep around four or five in the morning, Mr. Hestrin said. While the oldest son took a course at the local community college, his mother stood outside the classroom and took him home as soon as it ended. The 17-year-old daughter did not understand what the officers meant when they asked if there was medication in the home. Many of the children did not know what a police officer was.
“They were never allowed to have toys,” Mr. Hestrin said. “They lack a basic knowledge.”
Mr. Turpin appeared to be employed and earning a regular income, Mr. Hestrin said. He and his wife ate well. The police found several toys scattered through the four-bedroom home, but they were all unopened. The only thing the children were permitted to do was to write in their journals — the authorities found hundreds of them in the home and expect they will provide crucial evidence in court.