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Don’t let this horror happen where we live

When California sheriff’s deputies arrived at the home of David and Louise Turpin last year, they found what some have described as “a house of horrors.”

First, the deputies had to unshackle the Turpins’ 22-year-old son from the bed to which he had been chained. Then, they had to get help for the young man and the couple’s other 12 children, ages 2-29, who had been kept as prisoners in the home. The victims were malnourished, had not bathed for months and were being kept in a house that reeked with the stench of human waste.

Last month, the Turpins were sentenced to life in prison. Neither will be eligible for parole for at least 25 years.

During their trial, it came out that they had held the children captive for many years, sometimes torturing them.

It was only when one of their daughters, then 17, slipped out a window of the house in Perris, California, that law enforcement authorities became aware of the situation. The girl used a cellphone to dial 911, in a desperate cry for help.

What is perhaps most disturbing about the Turpins is that they got away with mistreating their children horribly for many years.

The children were homeschooled, with the approval of state officials who apparently did not check in much. The youngsters were not allowed outside very often. Neighbors said they never suspected anything was wrong.

More needs to be known about what happened, to answer questions that ought to trouble us all: How could this happen? How could it have gone on so long with no one noticing that something was terribly wrong?

Sociologists say many Americans lack the sense of community and the dedication to watching out for one’s neighbors that once were hallmarks of living in our country.

Perhaps we need to get back to that. Ask yourself, then answer honestly: Could this have happened where I live?

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