Los Angeles

‘Torture House' Couple Who Shackled Children Sentenced to Life in Prison

David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges in a child-torture case that came to light after a 17-year-old daughter escaped from their Perris house

What to Know

  • David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty in February to torture and other abuse charges involving
  • The case came to light after a daughter escaped from the Riverside County house where she lived with her 12 siblings
  • When deputies responded to the girl's 911 call, they were shocked by what they discovered

Emotional statements from their children, some recalling years of abuse and imprisonment, were read in court Friday before a Riverside County couple was sentenced to life in prison for child-torture and other crimes.

David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty in Riverside County Superior Court in February to torture and other abuse and neglect so severe it stunted their children's growth, led to muscle wasting and left two girls unable to bear children. Some of the 13 children living in the Perris home were shackled to beds.

"My parents took my whole life from me, but now I'm taking my life back," said a 30-year-old daughter, one of two adult children who spoke Friday morning in court before the sentence, life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

As the sentence for her parents was read, she began petting a comfort dog.

A 27-year-old son -- none of the children were publicly identified -- said he still loves his parents, but recounted years of horrific abuse.

"I cannot describe in words what me and my siblings went through," he said. "Sometimes, I still have nightmares about what happened, like my sibling being chained up and beaten.

"I love my parents and have forgiven them for all of the things that they have done to us."  

He said he learned to ride a bike last year and is enjoying newfound freedom. 

"Sometimes, I go on long rides just because I like it so much." 

The Turpins began crying when one of the children read a statement in which he said he prays often for them. One of the children asked for a lighter sentence.

In another statement read in court, a child said, "I want the court to know that our parents loved each other and loved each of their children."

The case came to light with a desperate cry for help from a girl who had lived in such isolation for 17 years that she didn't know her address, the month of the year or what the word medication meant. But after jumping out a window from the filthy home where she lived with her parents and 12 siblings, she knew enough to punch the digits 9-1-1 into a barely workable cellphone and then began describing years of horrific abuse to a police dispatcher.

The brave girl's call that freed her siblings — some who had been chained to their beds — led to the opposite fate for their parents. 

David Turpin's lawyer read part of a statement because he was too upset. "My homeschooling and discipline had good intentions," he said. "I'm sorry if I've done anything to cause them harm."

Louise Turpin spoke for herself, saying, "I'm sorry for everything I've done to hurt my children. I love my children so much. ... I only want the best for them.

Before the 17-year-old escaped from the home in a middle-class section of the city of Perris, about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the Turpins had lived largely out of view.

David Turpin, 57, had been an engineer for Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Louise Turpin, 50, was listed as a housewife in a 2011 bankruptcy filing.

Their home was neatly kept and neighbors rarely saw the kids outside the home.

When deputies arrived, they were shocked by what they discovered. A 22-year-old son was chained to a bed and two girls had just been set free from their shackles. The house was covered in filth and the stench of human waste was overwhelming.

Deputies testified that the children said they were only allowed to shower once a year. They were mainly kept in their rooms except for meals, which had been reduced from three to one per day, a combination of lunch and dinner. The 17-year-old complained that she could no longer stomach peanut butter sandwiches — they made her gag.

The Turpin boys and girls weren't allowed to play like other children. Other than an occasional family trip to Las Vegas or Disneyland, they rarely left the home. They slept during the day and were active a few hours at night.

Although the couple filed paperwork with the state to homeschool their children, learning was limited. The oldest daughter only completed third grade.

"We don't really do school. I haven't finished first grade," the 17-year-old said, according to Deputy Manuel Campos.

Children said they were beaten, caged and shackled to beds if they didn't obey their parents.

Investigators found that the toddler had not been abused, but all of the children were hospitalized after they were discovered.

The seven adult children were living together and attending school in February when their parents pleaded guilty. Attorney Jack Osborn, who represents them, said Friday that the trial and sentence are part of a long and difficult process.

"They do love their parents," said Osborne. "I think none of our clients disagree about the outcome today... Ultimately, our clients are working toward forgiveness."

The couple pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges. Prosecutors said the deal would likely keep them in prison for the rest of their lives and spare the children from testifying.

"The defendants ruined lives, so I think it's just and fair that the sentence be equivalent to first-degree murder," District Attorney Mike Hestrin said at the time of the plea.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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