It’s a story that continues to capture international attention. On January 14, police discovered 13 malnourished brothers and sisters — aged 2 to 29 — held captive in David and Louise Turpin’s Perris, California home. According to the Riverside County Sheriff’s department, the children were “shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings.”
Now, a man who attended kindergarten through third grade with the eldest Turpin sibling, has written a gut-wrenching Facebook post detailing how she was mercilessly bullied at Meadowcreek Elementary School in Fort, Worth Texas. (The Turpins resided in Rio Vista, Texas, before moving to Perris.)
“[She] was the one girl at Meadowcreek Elementary that nobody wanted to be caught talking to. Every grade level had a designated ‘cootie kid’ and she held the title for our year,” Taha Muntajibuddin began on January 18. “She was a frail girl, had pin-straight hair with bangs and often wore the same purple outfit. She was often made fun of by the other third graders because her clothes would sometimes look as though they had been dragged through mud, which she would also, smell like on most days.”
Muntajibuddin, a pediatrics resident doctor based in Houston, recalled a heartbreaking story from third grade when the teacher asked Turpin to “discard a crunchy she had used to tie her hair out of a discarded tin foil wrapper from an old Hershey’s bar.” According to Muntajibuddin, Turpin moved away before the start of fourth grade.
Years later, Muntajibuddin found himself thinking about Turpin and began searching for her on social media. “Her name was so distinct that there couldn’t be any more than a few people who shared the name, yet no matching results came up,” he wrote. “I had naturally assumed that [she] was one of the lucky few who hadn’t been hit by the social media bag. I also thought that somewhere, somehow [she] was probably living her best life, showing all of us gawky, third graders in Mrs. Llano’s class how far she’d come. She was going to be that person at the reunion looking completely flawless and making six figures.”
But sadly that was not the case. As previously reported, David, 57, and Louise, 49, fed their nearly dozen kids one meal a day and allowed them to shower twice a year. The conditions inside the four-bedroom ranch-style house were filled with urine and the Turpin kids were chained to furniture when authorities found them.
“I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame,” Muntajibuddin shared in his post. “Of course, none of us are responsible for the events that ensued, but you can’t help but feel rotten when the classmate your peers made fun of for ‘smelling like poop’ quite literally had to sit in her own waste because she was chained to her bed. It is nothing but sobering to know that the person who sat across from you at the lunch table went home to squalor and filth while you went home to a warm meal and a bedtime story.”
Muntajibuddin hopes others will use his story as a teachable moment. “The resounding lesson here is a simple one, something that we’re taught form the very beginning: be nice. Teach your children to be nice. If you see someone that’s isolated, befriend them. If you see someone that’s different, befriend them,” he pleaded. “We can never completely put ourselves in others’ shoes nor can we completely understand the circumstances that one is brought up in, but a simple act of kindness and acceptance may be the ray of hope that that person needs. Befriend the . . . Turpins of the world.”
David and Louise have pleaded not guilty to torture and other charges.