Former Neighbor of Calif. House of Horrors Couple Says One Sibling Tried to Escape Years Ago
A former neighbor of the California couple accused of abusing their 13 children tells PEOPLE one of the Turpin siblings tried escaping years ago when the family lived in Rio Vista, Texas.
“One of the girls escaped and I was always told that the police returned her,” says Rick Vinyard. “One of the girls did try to run away. It was probably three or four years after they moved in.”
Vinyard says that 56-year-old David Turpin, his 49-year-old wife, Louise, and their 13 kids — most of whom California authorities allege were malnourished, living in squalor, and kept captive — first lived in a brick house across the street from him. They moved to California after 10 years in the neighborhood.
In time, though, the family moved out of that home and into a double-wide trailer, which was parked on the same lot.
“They moved out of the brick house because the family had trashed it so bad, it was unlivable,” Vinyard says. “They had left pets in there that starved to death. We found a dead dog and a dead cat in that house. The kitchen just looked horrible. There were dirty diapers piled waste-high.”
As he approached the trailer, Vinyard says he heard something inside, moving.
“So I kicked open the door and two dogs came out,” Vinyard says. “They had been surviving on dirty diapers and toilet water.”
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Inside, he says he found “padlocks on everything: the refrigerator, the closets, the toy boxes, the bathrooms. There were also ropes tied to the bed.”
The Turpins were detained early last week after their 17-year-old daughter climbed through one of the windows of their Perris, California, home early on Sunday and called 911 using a disconnected cell phone she had found.
The teen, according to officials, had been planning the escape for two years. The Turpin siblings range in age from 2 to 29.
David and Louise were charged with 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse or neglect and 12 counts of false imprisonment for crimes dating back to 2010, Hestrin said in a press release. David was also charged with one count of lewd act on a child under the age of 14 by force, fear, or duress.
Vinyard tells PEOPLE he had few interactions with David.
“It was a really cold response,” he says. “When you talked to the guy, it was ‘Yeah, yeah, goodbye.’ There was no conversation with this guy.”
Both Turpins entered not guilty pleas to all of the charges and remain in custody. If convicted, each faces up to 94 years to life in prison.
Speaking to reporters after their court hearing Thursday, attorneys for David and Louise declined to comment beyond broad reactions about the allegations against them.
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According to Vinyard, he has been beating himself up ever since becoming aware of the allegations against the Turpins.
“I feel like s— about it,” he confides. ‘Me and my wife spoke about sending somebody over there and we spoke to my uncle and our other neighbors about it, and we would be like, ‘No.’ But, hindsight is 20/20. If I knew what they were doing to those kids, I’d be calling the police on them 10 times a day. I hope they get what they get.”
Anyone with information about the Turpin family is urged to call the official tipline set up by the D.A. in Riverside, California: (888) 934-KIDS