Fort Worth

Abuse of 13 California siblings began when family lived in DFW, authorities say

David and Louise Turpin of California, who are accused of holding their 13 children captive in their home in filthy conditions.
David and Louise Turpin of California, who are accused of holding their 13 children captive in their home in filthy conditions. Handout

Authorities in Riverside, Calif., say that two parents accused of holding their 13 children captive in a case that has made national headlines began abusing their kids when the family lived in North Texas.

David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of torture and child abuse in Riverside County. They were arrested Sunday after one of their malnourished daughters, 17, escaped their Los Angeles-area home and notified police.

Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin said Thursday during a press conference that the alleged abuse and neglect began when the family lived in the Fort Worth area, “with the parents at one point living apart from the most of the children and dropping off food from time to time.” Such reports were never made to North Texas law enforcement, however.

The Turpins are being held on $12 million bail after entering their pleas and are scheduled to return to court on Feb. 23, The Associated Press reported.

They accused of shackling their children to pieces of furniture and withholding food, so much so that the children were weak and malnourished when authorities found them.

While Child Protective Services in Texas has no history of investigations involving the Turpins, they have did have some interaction with law enforcement during the time they owned property or lived in Fort Worth and Rio Vista.

The Turpins apparently rented a postal box in Burleson from 1986 to 2003 as well. Records show the family left the area in 2010.

In 2001, while the family lived at a residence along Hill County Road 1123, one of their children was bitten by a dog and was taken to Cook’s Children’s hospital in Fort Worth, said Rick White, chief deputy for the Hill County Sheriff’s Office.

Two years later, some of the Turpins’ pigs got loose and ate 55 pounds of a neighbor’s dog food. White said David Turpin paid for the dog food and no report was filed.

White said those two instances were the only contact Hill County law enforcement had with the family.

Hestrin said that one of the 13 siblings reported being hogtied by the Turpins as a form of punishment.

“A couple of the TV stations talked to some of their old neighbors, who reported runaways from the residence, but we don’t have any record of any runaways from that residence,” White said. “We’ve been through three database updates since then, but I’ve gone through all the calls in all three of them and we don’t have any record of runaways.”

One of those was a WFAA report in which former neighbor Shelli Vinyard referred to the Turpins as “those weird neighbors,” saying she believed that “something’s going on over there. Something’s not right.”

She told the TV station that when the Turpins left the property, “Everything was trashed. Dogs stuck in the house eating dirty diapers.” She referred to the house as “the compound” because the family was “so closed off from society.”

In 2010, Johnson County sheriff’s deputies served the family civil documents related to a mortgage foreclosure on April 5, 2010, Sheriff Adam King said.

But nothing resembling the allegations made against them in California like chaining the children to furniture or withholding food from them was ever reported during their time in North Texas, authorities here say.

Tarrant County is No. 2 in Texas in the total number of confirmed cases, behind Harris County, but that only tells part of the story.

Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667, @MCTinez817