For years, David and Louise Turpin abused 12 of their 13 children, starving them, hitting them, depriving them of sleep and shackling them to furniture — torture that moved one of their daughters to tell a courtroom, “My parents took my whole life from me.”
In a Friday hearing at Riverside County Superior Court, the California couple were sentenced to life in prison. They’ll have a chance at parole after 25 years.
Their daughter, speaking publicly for the first time, continued through tears: “Now, I’m taking my life back.”
In February, the Turpin parents each pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts, admitting that they had overseen what state authorities would later call a “house of horrors.”
They were arrested in January 2018 after one of their children — a 17-year-old girl — escaped from the family’s home by climbing out a window, then called 911.
In the months that followed, law enforcement officials uncovered a pattern of startling and violent mistreatment, as the children recounted to them years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
In her 911 call, the 17-year-old said she didn’t know much about her mother. “She doesn’t take care of us. . . . They only chain us up if we do something wrong. My sisters, they wake up crying,” she said, CBS Los Angeles reported.
“I’ve never been out,” she told the dispatcher.
Three of the siblings were chained to their beds when police arrived at the family’s house in Perris, about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles, that January. The Turpins were unchaining two of their children, an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old, as police stood at the door, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin told reporters after the arrest. Another sibling, a 22-year-old, was still chained to a bed when police entered the home.
The abuse began several years ago, when the family was living in the Fort Worth area, prosecutors say. In 2010, they moved to Murrieta, Calif., where authorities say the abuse got worse, and then relocated to nearby Perris a few years later.
Inside the home, the children were not allowed to bathe more than once a year and were punished for washing their hands above their wrists, Hestrin said. Riverside County Sheriff’s Detective Thomas Salisbury testified in February that the couple’s 22-year-old son, who at one point managed to untie himself, “had been restrained with chains and ropes off and on for 6½ years,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Campos testified that the siblings called their parents “Mother” and “Father” to resemble “the Bible days,” the Los Angeles Times reported. The 17-year-old told investigators that David Turpin had tried to sexually abuse her. When she was 12, her father pulled her pants down and placed her on his lap. He also tried to kiss her on the mouth several times, she told investigators.
“Do you want to die?” Louise Turpin asked the girl as she choked her, according to Campos’s testimony.
“Yes, you do. You want to die. You want to die and go to hell,” the mother told her daughter, Campos said, recounting the teenager’s statements.
All the siblings, ranging in age from 2 to 29, were severely malnourished and had never been to a doctor or dentist. Since leaving the home, the seven adult children moved in together and began attending school, the New York Times reported.
In court Friday, both Turpin parents apologized. David Turpin, through his lawyer, said that he had “good intentions.” Louise Turpin said she was sorry for “everything I’ve done to hurt my children.”
“I only want the best for them,” she said.
One of the children, making a statement through an advocate, said she hopes she’s able to talk with her parents again, saying, “They believed everything they did was to protect us.”
The daughter who spoke about taking her life back, a 30-year-old identified as Jane Doe No. 4, said that she’s in college now, living independently.
“I’m a fighter, I’m strong, and I’m shooting through life like a rocket,” she said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
One of her brothers, who gave his name as Joshua, said he’s studying software engineering and hopes to one day pursue a master’s degree. He, too, is learning independence. In his statement to the court, the Times reported, Joshua said he recently learned to ride a bike.
“Since then, I have been hooked and ride it everywhere,” he said. “Sometimes I just go on long rides because I enjoy it so much.”