'House of horrors' parents get 25 to life for torturing and imprisoning their 13 children
When deputies arrived at David and Louise Turpin's house in Perris, California, they discovered a horrific scene. Thirteen children, ranging in age from 2 to 29, were found held captive and severely malnourished. One 22-year-old son was shackled to a bed, and one 29-year-old daughter weighed 82 pounds. The house was filthy, and reeked of human waste.
The deputies testified that all the children aside from the toddler suffered years of abuse, torture and imprisonment: They were only allowed one meal per day. They were only allowed to shower once a year. They never saw a doctor or a dentist. They weren't allowed to play. They lived in isolation without ever leaving the home, save for an occasional family trip to Disneyland or Vegas. They were forced to sleep during the day, and stay up all night. If they didn't obey their parents, they were beaten, caged or shackled to beds.
The abuse was so severe that it stunted the children's growth and left two girls unable to bear children, according to court testimony. What's more, all 13 children had diminished mental capacity, according to a source close to the investigation. Although the Turpins filed paperwork with California to homeschool their kids, their education was minimal at best. "We don't really do school. I haven't finished first grade," the 17-year-old said, according to Deputy Manuel Campos, per CBS News.
Deputies discovered the shocking "house of horrors" in January 2018, after a 17-year-old girl leapt out the window. She did not know the date, or the month, or what 'medication,' meant, but she did know how to dial 911 on a barely functional cell phone, and reported the abuse to a police dispatcher. After authorities arrived, they called for medical assistance and arrested the California couple. The children were hospitalized and then split up into foster care.
In February 2019, David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 50, pleaded guilty in Riverside County Superior Court to 14 felony counts, including "cruelty to an adult dependent, child cruelty, torture and false imprisonment." Their house in Perris, pictured below, was kept neat from the outside, giving neighbors no indication of the horrors within. (Perris is a city with an estimated population of 77,000, located about 70 miles east of Los Angeles and 80 miles north of San Diego.)
"My parents took my whole life from me, but now I'm taking my life back," said one girl who described living independently and attending college, per CBS News. "Life may have been bad but it made me strong. I fought to become the person that I am. I saw my dad change my mom. They almost changed me, but I realized what was happening. ... I'm a fighter, I'm strong and I'm shooting through life like a rocket."
Another sibling said he's studying to be a software engineer, and surprisingly, forgave his parents for "a lot of the things that they did to us." However, he still struggles emotionally. "I cannot describe in words what we went through growing up," he said. "Sometimes, I still have nightmares of things that had happened to us, such as my siblings being chained up or getting beaten. But that is the past, and this is now."
Some of the other Turpin children agree, and say they still love their parents. One requested a lighter sentence for them because "they believed everything they did was to protect us." In addition, she asked for them to be incarcerated in a nearby prison, so she could visit them more easily. "I believe our parents feared if they asked for help, they would lose their children," she said in her statement.
In court, Louise Turpin apologized for hurting her children, and broke down crying. "I'm sorry for everything I've done to hurt my children," she said. "I love my children so much. ... I only want the best for them... [I look] forward to the day I can see them and hug them and tell them I'm sorry."
David Turpin gave a similar statement, and was so emotional his attorney had to read a portion of it. "I never intended for any harm to come to my children," the statement said. "I'm sorry if I've done anything to cause them harm. I'm glad we were able to resolve this case without my children being forced to testify." When David Turpin recovered enough to speak, he said he hoped his children succeeded in school and in their careers.
Judge Bernard Schwartz admonished the couple for their "selfish, cruel and inhumane actions," the sentenced them to 25 years to life in prison. "The only reason your punishment is less than the maximum, in my opinion, is because you accepted responsibility at an early stage of the proceedings and spared the children from having to relive the humiliation and harm they endured in that house of horrors," Schwartz said.
"The defendants ruined lives, so I think it's just and fair that the sentence be equivalent to first-degree murder," said District Attorney Mike Hestrin at the time of the guilty plea.