Turpin family: California home-schooling laws 'may be reviewed' after 13 siblings 'found shackled to beds' in Perris house of horrors

Chloe Chaplain
The family seen in Dr Seuss-style shirts in a group photo which appears to have been taken in April 2016: Facebook

Californian authorities could change home-schooling laws after 13 siblings were found chained to their beds at home in California.

Campaigners argued stricter regulation could have prevented the case of the emaciated family, aged between two and 29-years-old, found shackled inside their home in Perris, Los Angeles, on Sunday.

Parents, 57-year-old David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, were arrested at the dirty and darkened house on suspicion of child endangerment.

The shocking case has prompted questions of how the victims were kept in such grim conditions without raising suspicions. Some experts suggested it may have been easier for the parents to shield their children from scrutiny because they were home-schooled

Horrific: David and Louise Turpin with their children

"One of the things that was interesting was, he [Turpin] set up his own home school so the kids were accounted for and not really seen by anybody," said Sherryll Kraizer, a child-abuse prevention expert and the founder of the Coalition for Children.

The California Department of Education lists the Turpin address, where the family has lived since 2014, as the location of the Sandcastle Day School, with David Turpin as principal.

In order to run a home-school in the state, Turpin would have had to fill out forms each year but there is no legal obligation for the state to visit and assess the environment.

Media report from 160 Muir Woods Road in Perris, California, (AFP/Getty Images)

Rachel Coleman, the executive director of non-profit group the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, told The Los Angeles Times: “We know that many home-schooling parents provide their children with a safe and child-centred home environment.

“Unfortunately, current law provides nothing to stop families like the Turpins from using home-schooling to isolate and imprison their children.”

She called for mandatory check-ups and performance reviews as well as criminal background checks for parents choosing to teach their children at home, arguing that this could stop people who are using home-schooling as a cover-up for child abuse.

Louise and David Turpin have been charged with child endangerment and torture

On Tuesday, Assemblyman Jose Medina announced he would be “looking into” proposing legislation to change home-schooling laws following the Turpin case but he did not specify further.

The grim situation was discovered after one of the daughters, an emaciated 17-year-old girl who looked as young as ten, escaped through a window of the home and used a disconnected mobile phone to call the police.

She was then interviewed by officers and showed them pictures of the conditions she was being held in, along with her brothers and sisters.

Residents gathered outside the California home after 13 children were found held captive (AFP/Getty Images)

Six of the couple's children are minors, while the rest are over 18. Police who discovered them said they were malnourished and living in “horrific” conditions.

Following the news, the family’s relatives have spoken out about their horror and confusion at the allegations and said they did not have much contact with the family other than over the phone.

Louise's sister Teresa Robinette said she thought David Turpin treated his wife “like a queen" and wondered why the children were never allowed to speak on the phone.

"We always thought she was living the perfect life," she said. "She would tell us they went to Disneyland all the time, they would go to Vegas."

On Monday, the devastated parents of David Turpin said they were shocked by the allegations and described them as a “good Christian family”.

James and Betty Turpin, from West Virginia, also said that they had not seen the family since visiting several years ago.

David and Louise Turpin were charged with nine counts of torture and 10 counts of child endangerment. They are being held on $9 million bail, with an initial court hearing scheduled for Thursday.