Investigators are considering sending cadaver dogs into the home of David and Louise Turpin, where their 13 malnourished and abused children were rescued earlier this month.
The dogs could help detect whether there are other children who did not survive the house’s horrific conditions, Crime Watch Daily reports.
The news site also reports that police may seek to test the DNA of the siblings to verify that they are in fact related.
The brothers and sisters – seven adults and six children – are being treated in southern California hospitals.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, the children were starved, chained to furniture and not allowed to use the toilet. Some were kept so insulated from the world that they did not understand the idea of medicine or police officers.
“You don’t need to learn what a police officer is from going to school, you learn that from just being out in the world,” Patricia Costales told the DailyMail.
Costales is CEO of The Guidance Center, a nonprofit group that serves children with mental health therapy.
“To not even know something like that really speaks to how incredibly controlled their environment was. They’re going to experience a culture shock even apart from the trauma they have undergone,” said Costales, who has treated kidnapping victims.
It will be best for the Turpin children to keep them together, but they will still require years of therapy in all likelihood, according to experts.
“Their brains are still adapting, they’re still forming, they’re still developing their understanding of the world,” Costales said of the younger Turpin children.
“But someone who has experienced these things for 20-some years of their life will have a lot of learning to do about what relationships are like, what the world is like, how they’re supposed to be treated.”
In fact, the kids may feel upset right now that they are separated from their parents, even though the Turpin elders have been accused of child abuse and torture, according to Jessica Borelli, a psychologist and professor at the University of California at Irvine.
“When we come into this world, our attachment figures are our primary sources of safety and security, no matter how abusive they are,” Borelli told the Daily Mail.
“That impulse or that draw to be back with the people who are supposed to keep you safe is incredibly strong, and that is what has to be overridden to get out of an abusive situation.”
Authorities responded to the Turpin home in the city of Perris, about 60 miles from Los Angeles, last week after one of the children escaped through a window and called 911. The girl, 17, had planned the runaway attempt for two years.
That she took such steps is a positive indication, Borelli said.
“To me, that is a sign she has something inside of her that is really healthy,” Borelli said.
“One of the things that happens with really prolonged abuse like this is the instincts about self-protection and the desire to protect oneself are totally disrupted – but she has it. So, I think she might be someone who can help.”
Officers who arrived at the house found a 22-year-old sibling chained to one of the beds. The home also stunk of human excrement.
Authorities said it was clear the children were being starved. The oldest sibling, who was 29, weighed just 89 pounds, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said.
Police say the children were chained to their beds as punishment.
David and Louise Turpin have pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of child abuse, torture, dependent adult abuse and false imprisonment charges that date back to 2010, when they moved to California from Texas.
David Turpin also has pleaded not guilty to a charge of performing a lewd act on a child younger than 14.
They are scheduled to return to court in late February.