The Turpin case is a child abuse and captivity incident discovered in Perris, California, United States, in which David and Louise Turpin imprisoned their 13 children for years or decades. On January 14, 2018, one of the children escaped and contacted police who, upon entering the home, found some of the children in a dark, foul-smelling room. The siblings ranged in age from 2 to 29, with 7 of the 13 children being legal adults (ages 18 and up) at the time of the parents' arrest in January 2018.
The Turpins shackled, beat and strangled their children, allowing them to eat just once per day and shower just once per year. According to investigators, the older ones were so malnourished that they appeared to be much younger. The eldest, a 29-year-old woman, weighed just 82 pounds (37 kg). Some of the siblings appeared to lack basic knowledge of the world, being unfamiliar with what medicine and police were.
The case is considered "extraordinary for numerous reasons", such as the abuse being done to multiple children by two parents (whereas abuse with only one child victim is more common), and according to Bernard Gallagher, because "you don't often get cases of children being tortured, where the abuse seems calculated".
The couple was arrested and detained but pleaded not guilty to all charges. Various legal charges and court hearings followed in the succeeding months. On February 22, 2019, the couple changed their pleas to guilty on 14 felony counts, including "cruelty to an adult dependent, child cruelty, torture and false imprisonment". On April 19, 2019, the couple was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years, although experts believed they would never receive parole due to the severity of the crimes.
Perpetrators David Allen Turpin (born October 17, 1961) and Louise Ann Turpin (born May 24, 1968) were married in 1985 in Pearisburg, Virginia, when David was 23 and Louise was 16 years old. The couple eloped, angering Louise's father, church pastor Wayne Robinette.
David, according to his parents, is a computer engineer who graduated from Virginia Tech and had worked as an engineer for both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. In 1979, he graduated from Princeton High School in West Virginia. The school's 1979 yearbook listed him as the treasurer of the Bible Club, co-captain of the Chess Club, and a member of the Science Club and Acapella Choir. Louise's occupation was listed in court documents as a homemaker. The couple are adherents of the Quiverfull movement and Pentecostalism. According to David's parents, the couple kept having children because "God called on them" to do so.
According to Louise's sister Elizabeth Flores, she, Louise, and their cousin Patricia were sexually abused as children by their grandfather. Another sister of Louise Turpin, Teresa Robinette, claimed that their mother let a rich pedophile sexually abuse them as children in exchange for cash. A new book by Elizabeth Flores detailed how the accused child abuser was obsessed with witchcraft, Satanic rituals and Ouija boards. Flores said her sister was obsessed with the "dark arts" and had even tried to persuade her to join a snake handling festival.
The couple rented a postal box in Burleson, Texas, from 1986 to 2003. They owned property or had lived in Rio Vista and Fort Worth, and left the area in 2010. After the Turpins moved out of the house, neighbors visited the property and reportedly found feces throughout the residence, beds with ropes tied to them, several dead cats and dogs in a trailer and large piles of garbage around the property. The neighbors did not disclose their findings to any authorities.
In their California house, the yard was unkempt with overgrown weeds, prompting a code violation. Neighbors in California reported that on the occasion they would see the children, they would freeze and stay silent when spoken to, "like children whose only defense was to be invisible." They would skip around rather than walk, and appeared malnourished and pale.
Escape and rescue
The Turpin children had been planning an escape for more than two years. On January 14, 2018, two of them left the house through a window. One returned home out of fear, but a 17-year-old daughter got away. She was in possession of a cell phone, and, although it was deactivated, she was able to call 9-1-1. When police met her, she showed officers photos of conditions in the home.
Deputies of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department converged on the house, where they found the 12 other siblings, one of whom (aged 22) was shackled to a bed with chains. The deputies suspected that an additional two had also been shackled just prior to their entry into the house. The deputies described the siblings as having a malnourished, dirty appearance and looking to be younger than their ages. They had initially assumed that all 13 in the group were minors, but they later determined that their ages ranged from 2 to 29, with seven being legal adults as of January 14, 2018.
The sheriff's department said that Louise was "perplexed" when deputies entered the residence. They also said, "The parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in [the manner that they were]." The six minors, ranging from ages 2 to 17, were transported to Riverside County Regional Medical Center, where they were admitted to the pediatrics unit for treatment. Corona Regional Medical Center said that the facility was treating the seven adult children, ranging from ages 18 to 29, describing them as small and clearly malnourished, but stable, relieved and very friendly. As of late February, the seven adult children remained at the medical center, while the six younger siblings were in the care of two foster homes.
Arrest and legal proceedings
David and Louise Turpin were arrested during the raid on suspicion of child endangerment and torture and held at a Riverside County jail on $9-$12 million bail each. Police searched the Turpins' property on January 17, taking away black plastic bags of evidence. Hundreds of journals written by the children about their experiences over the years were recovered from the home.
The Turpins were charged with 12 counts of torture, 12 counts of false imprisonment, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, and six counts of child abuse. David received an additional charge of a lewd act on a child under 14 years old. Upon announcing the charges against the Turpins, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said, "The abuse and severe neglect intensified over time and intensified as they moved to California." The couple pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In a brief hearing on January 24, the judge accepted the prosecutors' request for a restraining order forbidding contact between the Turpin parents and their children for a period of three years. The parents are prohibited from coming within 100 yards (91 m) of any of their children or establishing electronic contact with them. Both defendants agreed to these restrictions. On February 23, Hestrin filed an additional three charges of child abuse against the couple, and one felony assault charge against Louise individually. A felony settlement conference was scheduled for March 23, with a preliminary hearing following on May 14. On May 4, David was charged with eight counts of perjury in relation to affidavits he filed with the California Department of Education between the years 2010–2017, stating that "the children in the home were receiving a full-time education in a private day school". A preliminary hearing date for the couple was scheduled for June 20, 2018.
On June 21, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz ruled that the Turpin parents would face trial for child abuse, false imprisonment, and torture of their children. The couple faced 50 charges, including several counts of torture, false imprisonment and child abuse. Despite the efforts of defense attorneys to dismiss most of the charges, the judge only dropped a child endangerment charge involving the Turpins' 2-year-old child due to a lack of evidence that the toddler had been abused.
The Turpins were then ordered to be arraigned in court August 3, but this was postponed to August 31 due to the Turpins' defense attorneys considering a new motion in the case. On August 31, they were arraigned once more and were ordered to appear in court on October 5 for a trial readiness conference, with the possibility of the Turpins' trial beginning up to 60 days after this. At this hearing, the judge declined the defense's request for Louise Turpin to seek mental health treatment outside of custody for histrionic personality disorder, which she had been diagnosed with since her arrest. Had the judge granted this request, Louise could have been treated for up to two years and had all charges against her dropped.
The couple's next court appearance, another trial readiness conference, took place on November 30. At this hearing, the judge announced that motions in the case will be heard the week of August 12, 2019, and that the Turpins' trial would officially begin on September 3, 2019. One of the motions in the case is expected to be a request from the Turpins' defense lawyers for the trial to take place outside of Riverside County due to the publicity the case has received.
The Turpins appeared in court again on February 22, 2019, for another trial-readiness conference. David and Louise both changed their pleas from not guilty to guilty. They pleaded guilty to one count of torture, three counts of willful child cruelty, four counts of false imprisonment, and six counts of cruelty to an adult dependent. The plea ensured that they each admitted guilt to at least one crime per child. They were sentenced on April 19 according to mandatory sentencing guidelines. Both were sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after serving a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years. Experts believed they would never receive parole due to the severity of the crime making it in effect and actuality a lifetime sentence.
After the arrest, visitors left notes, balloons and flowers at the house for the children. In November, the house was foreclosed on by the lender. Thieves and vandals later struck the house, knowing it was unoccupied. The property was put up for sale through an auction site in late December 2018; appraised at around $40,000 higher, it sold for a high bid of $310,000 in early February 2019. In February 2019, David said he hopes the children forgive him.
During the sentencing of the Turpins in April 2019, two of the children (now adults) bore witness and described their new lives. The oldest daughter said she is living independently and going to college. The oldest son has also said he was independent and learned how to advocate for himself, how to swim, how to manage money, how to eat healthy and prepare a balanced meal. He said he is working towards a bachelor’s degree in software engineering and wanted to get a job as a software engineer and also to get a master’s degree.
Reaction of friends and extended family
On January 17, 2018, Louise's sister said that she begged for decades to see her nieces and nephews, even through Skype, but the couple would not let her. Another sister of Louise said she was concerned about the children's weight. Louise Turpin's aunt said, "With the pictures they put on Facebook, you thought they were one big happy family." David's parents said they were "surprised and shocked" at the allegations against their son and daughter-in-law. The couple's previous bankruptcy lawyer said that she met with the couple about four or five times in 2011 and described them as "just very normal."
In popular culture
|"Louise Turpin’s Sister Teresa Robinette" – Megyn Kelly Today, YouTube video (7:56 min.)|
|"Louise Turpin’s Sister and Cousin Open Up About Childhood Abuse, doctoroz.com video (3:49 min.)|
|"Former neighbors of Louise and David Turpin" – Dr. Phil, YouTube video (2:39 min.)|
Television coverage of the case extended beyond the traditional TV news reports, as talk shows and even crime-show programming focused on the Turpins:
David's brother Randy—the president of a Bible college and a fiery megachurch preacher and faith healer, who went to Disneyland with the family in 2011—expressed interest in adopting the children. He posted it online, writing, "A memory that I will hold to for the rest of my life. It was so great being with you guys."
Natascha Kampusch, an Austrian woman who was kidnapped and locked in a cellar for eight years, has said that the 13 Turpin children must be allowed to see the parents who kept them captive, and that the children, who have not been named, will need to find a way to either forgive David and Louise Turpin or leave them behind because "it will help them begin a process where they can cope with the whole situation and get more stable."
The Dr. Phil episode "Inside the California House of Horrors" aired January 2018; in it, family, neighbors, and friends speak with Dr. Phil concerning the secrets that were occurring within the home. Kidnap survivor Michelle Knight shared a message for the children.
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The Turpins' case is extraordinary for numerous reasons - particularly as the allegations are against two parents who had multiple children together. Prof Browne, director of the Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology at the University of Nottingham, says it is more common to see cases where there is one child and the parent or parents cannot cope, so the situation spirals out of control. Dr Bernard Gallagher, a child protection expert at the University of Huddersfield, says: "I see a lot of cases of neglect, where children are not washed or fed properly, but you don't often get cases of children being tortured, where the abuse seems calculated."
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She tells Megyn Kelly that she hopes her 13 nieces and nephews can one day lead a happy and normal existence. "I hope to put my arm around them and tell them they have a family that is not deranged."
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