An Elvis impersonator was in the room the three times a California couple accused of starving and torturing their 13 children renewed their vows at a Las Vegas chapel.
The “kids” that authorities say were found shackled and filthy in the suburban home of David Allen Turpin and Louise Ann Turpin were not in the first video the couple recorded on Oct. 29, 2011 at the Elvis Chapel, where the couple marked their 26th anniversary by promising to “love you tender” and slow dancing as Kent Ripley sang “Can’t Help Falling in Love” in a gold lamé Elvis-style jacket.
But the Turpins brought their brood when they did it again at the chapel on Sept. 2, 2013 for their 28th wedding anniversary, and again on Oct. 31, 2015 for their 30th, videos obtained and confirmed as authentic by NBC News showed.
Each time the girls wore pink tartan dresses and white tights and the boys wore dark suits with white shirts and red ties. Each time the bride wore a white wedding dress and the groom wore a black tux.
And each time, everybody was beaming as the Turpin family stood together on a stage adorned with fake Greek columns.
“They never appeared to be anything other than a big family that stayed together, traveled together, and did everything together,” Ripley said, speaking in the cadences of “the king.”
“They were quiet, yet nice and well-behaved,” he said of the kids. “They weren’t bossed around. They weren’t yelled at. They smiled a lot.”
Those images of a seemingly happy family celebrating their parents’ love — the boys awkward with bowl haircuts just like their dad, the girls smiling shyly and clearly not used to walking in heels — stood in stark contrast Tuesday to the horror show the emerged from the unremarkable home on Muir Woods Road in the unremarkable Los Angeles exurb.
Turpin, 57, and his wife, Louise, 49, are charged with torture and child endangerment and are each being held on $9 million bail.
It was the 17-year-old who broke free and used a cellphone she found in the in the home to call 911 early Sunday, according to a statement from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
“Further investigation revealed several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings, but the parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in that manner,” the statement read.
It was only after freeing them that deputies discovered seven of what they thought were severely emaciated kids were actually adults “ranging in age from 18 to 29.”
The bizarre case that has drawn worldwide attention to Perris, California, but Captain Greg Fellows of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office said they had no idea anything was happening at the home until the 17-year-old escaped through a window and showed deputies incriminating photos.
“We had no call history at this address,” Fellows said. “I appreciate the courage this juvenile had to escape this house.”
Fellows said he doesn’t know what prompted her to flee, but he said her mother “was perplexed” when deputies arrived at her door. He said the victims, as young as 2-years-old, appeared to have been victims of “prolonged” starvation. He would not comment on reports that they had been forced to memorize long Biblical passages.
“There is no indication of mental illness at this time,” he said, adding that there is also no sign that any of the kids were sexually abused.
David Turpin had gotten state approval to run a private school, the Sandcastle Day School, out of his one-story tan stucco house, California records revealed. They listed him as the principal.
“They were home schooled,” Fellows said of the victims, adding that he did not know how long the family had been in Perris. He said they previously lived in Texas.
Neither Turpin appears to have a criminal record. The New York Times reported the couple filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and stated they were between $100,000 and $500,000 in debt.
David Turpin worked, at the time, as an engineer for defense contractor Northrop Grumman and was paid a $140,000 annual salary, the Times reported. His wife was listed as a homemaker.
Neighbors told NBC Los Angeles that they knew the family had many children but that they weren’t sure how many because “the kids didn’t come out very often.”
All 13 of the Turpin children have been admitted to nearby hospitals for treatment. Corona Regional Medical Center CEO Mark Uffer said they were “very friendly” and “very cooperative.”
“It’s hard to think of them as adults because they’re very small,” Uffer said.
Sophia Grant, medical director of the child abuse unit at Riverside Medical, said they are monitoring them closely. “There can be complications if you try to feed them too quickly,” she said.