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The private school had a welcoming name. The principal was scientifically minded. But the Sandcastle Day School was a nightmare for the six students enrolled there.

David A. Turpin created the school inside his nondescript stucco home southeast of Los Angeles. But the only ones enrolled there were the six of his 13 children who were school age. And what took place inside was not teaching but torture, the authorities said, after they raided the house over the weekend and found a horrifying scene of emaciated children chained to furniture. The putrid smell overwhelmed them.

By creating such a school of horrors, Mr. Turpin had kept the authorities at bay. His children were never seen by teachers or counselors. Their absences never raised suspicions. On Tuesday, state and local officials were on the defensive as they tried to explain how such things could have occurred in a private school the state had sanctioned.

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Members of the news media were parked outside the home of David A. Turpin and Louise A. Turpin in Perris, Calif.CreditMike Blake/Reuters

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