California parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

In this June 20, 2018, file photo Louise Turpin, left, and her husband, David Turpin, right, appear for a preliminary hearing in Superior Court in Riverside, Calif. The Turpins who starved a dozen of their children and shackled some to beds face sentencing for years of abuse. The couple is due Friday, April 19, 2019, in Riverside County Superior Court for a proceeding that is largely a formality. The couple pleaded guilty in February to torture and other abuse and agreed to serve at least 25 years in prison. (Watchara Phomicinda/The Orange County Register via AP, Pool, File)

A California couple who inflicted years and torture on 12 of their 13 children and were only discovered when one of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator were sentenced to life in prison Friday, with parole possible after 25 years.

The sentencing of David and Louise Turpin was preceded by the first public statements from some of the children, who alternately spoke of love for their parents, and of what they had suffered despite it, as the couple wiped away tears.

READ MORE: California parents of 13 plead guilty to torture, abuse

The Turpins pleaded guilty in February to neglect and abuse.

“I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to hurt my children. I love my children so much,” Louise Turpin said.

None of the children were publicly identified.

One of the adult children walked into court already in tears just after the hearing began, holding hands with a prosecutor.

A daughter said, “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.”

Some of the others said they still love their parents. One asked for a lighter sentence because “they believed everything they did was to protect us.”

The horrors within the home were concealed behind a veneer of suburban normalcy in a middle-class section of Perris, a small city about 60 miles (96 kilometres) southeast of Los Angeles.

The residence was neatly kept and neighbours rarely saw the kids outside, but nothing triggered suspicion.

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.

But the children’s desperate plight became public after a teenage daughter escaped from the filthy home by jumping from a window, then used a cellphone to contact a police dispatcher and begin describing years of horrific abuse.

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.

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

Judge Bernard Schwartz said the children were not allowed to be filmed or photographed.

Most of the 13 children — who ranged in age from 2 to 29 — were severely underweight and hadn’t bathed for months.

The desperate cry for help from the 17-year-old came after a lifetime of living in such isolation, the girl didn’t know her address, the month of the year or what the word “medication” meant.

But 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.

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 children weren’t allowed to play like normal children. Other than an occasional family trip to Las Vegas or Disneyland, which one of the daughters mentioned at Friday’s hearing, 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.

The 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.

Brian Melley, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pandemic spurs egg-citement for backyard chickens in Greater Victoria

Fowl surge in popularity during COVID-19 pandemic

Saanich looks at allowing alcohol in parks after North Vancouver gives the green light

Bylaw allowing liquor in parks ‘a very positive idea,’ mayor says

Pandemic profiles: Passion at the heart of community businesses

Businesses rely on community support to stay open

Organizer, Victoria councillor, VicPD talk about upcoming rally for Black lives

‘It’s a simple ask’: Peace rally for Black lives organizer asks people to listen

George Floyd mural appears on Victoria street

Victoria artist Paul Archer painted the mural outside his shop on Fort Street

Trudeau offers $14B to provinces for anti-COVID-19 efforts through rest of year

Making a difference in municipalities is a pricey proposition

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

‘Alarmed’: Health critic calls for more data on COVID-19 in trucking industry

Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec said that level of detail is not being collected

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Most Read