For many years, 13 children were held captive by their own parents. They lived in a very strict and controlled system. They did not leave the house, ate once a day, bathed once a year, slept chained in their beds, and although they lived in the same house, their siblings barely saw each other.
The children were held captive between 1989 and 2018, when one managed to escape and called the police. David and Louise Turpin first pleaded not guilty, but to avoid trial, they changed their position at a hearing, pleading guilty to 14 of the 49 crimes they were charged with.
The last town the family lived in was Perris, California. The ages of the children at the time of the rescue ranged from 2 to 29 years old. But when the police arrived on the scene, they thought they were all underage, given the severe level of malnutrition.
I am not able to describe in words what we experienced growing up there. I still have nightmares of the things that happened, like when my brothers were chained or beaten. But that is in the past. I love my parents and I forgive them for many of the things they did to us.Reported one of the sons during the hearing.
The day was January 14, 2018, after two years of planning, two sisters managed to escape the house, one of them, 13 years old, returned, probably out of fear, while other sources say she got lost. The other, 17 years old, remained focused on the mission.
With a cell phone that she took along on her escape, she was able to call the police. Since they had almost no contact with the outside world, she had difficulty showing the police the location of the house. But using some references, she was able to clarify her location.
A few minutes later the police arrived, she then showed the pictures of the cell phone she had taken with her during the escape, and quickly more reinforcements were called. The case was no longer a simple police mission, it was a real criminal case.
My parents took my life, but now I am recovering. I am a fighter and I am strong. I saw my father change my mother, they almost changed me, but I realized what was happening.Related one of the daughters during the hearing.
Locations where the family lived
The family moved several times over time, between 1989, the year their first child was born, until 2018, the year they were rescued. The first town was in Texas. When they left the house, the next resident stated that the house was packed with dirt, and that he had the impression that many animals lived in it.
Then the family moved to the town of Murrieta, now in the State of California. The neighbor, who lived just across the street, reported that the couple’s children “marched like soldiers” for many hours on the second floor of the house. The neighbor never did anything, because believed that the children had some sort of mental disability.
As the years went by, more severe David and Louise Turpin became. The family’s last town was Perris, California. A town of just over 100,000 people, located approximately 70 mi (110km) from Los Angeles.
Not everything is what it seems
The facade of the family home offered an appearance of order and tranquility. In addition, the couple had a Facebook profile, where everyone appeared to be very happy. But this only masked the real story.
All the couple’s children were locked in the house. Their parents only let them out on specific dates, such as their trips to Disney and Las Vegas.
Front of the House Family at Disney
The house was considered a private school by the local government
California has no homeschooling law, however you can register your home as a private school. That’s what David and Louise did.
The California Department of Education classified the Turpin family home as a private school before they even moved in. Under California law, the government has no authority to monitor, inspect, or supervise private schools. They had found a loophole in the law, which allowed them to claim that their children were being educated at home.
In the records, David Turpin was listed as principal and administrator of the school, overseeing the enrollment of eight students in the 2010 to 2011 school year.
Although this type of school is common in the United States, especially in states like California where the law is less strict, the couple found a way to use this benefit to commit mischief.
Situation of the brothers at the time of the rescue
The children ate only once a day, one separate from the other, standing in the kitchen. Usually the meal was a bologna or peanut sandwich. The children looked much younger because of malnutrition, the oldest, 29 years old, weighed only 81 pounds (37 kg).
Some of them didn’t know what a doctor or policeman was. They were deprived of basic care. None had seen a doctor for more than four years, and none had ever been to the dentist.
As time passed, the couple’s cruelty increased. Initially the children were tied up with ropes, but after one managed to get out of the bandages, the parents started using chains and padlocks to restrain and punish them. They often kept them chained while they went to the toilet.
Parents would buy good quality food and let the children look at it, but not let them eat it. They did the same with toys, there were many that were in their original packaging and had never been opened. The torture was not only physical, but also psychological.
The family had a habit of sleeping during the day and being active at night, the children usually going to sleep around 5 am. This may have helped with the siblings not being discovered for so long.
Charges and trial
The parents were charged with torture, private imprisonment, abuse of a dependent adult, child abuse, and lewd act to a child under 14 (on David’s part).
In the trial, held in April 2019, the couple was sentenced to life in prison, however, there is a law in California that does not allow sentencing a senior citizen for more than 25 years without having the opportunity for parole. Therefore, the couple will be able to apply for this benefit after spending all those years in prison.
During the very emotional hearing, Louise and David asked their children for forgiveness and said they loved them. Some of the children, who were present at the trial, said that they loved their parents and believed that everything they did was out of love. While another said that he had forgiven them and prayed for them.
Current situation of the brothers
From what sources report, the six youngest siblings have been adopted and are adapting well. Others are in group homes. Some of the older ones continue to progress gradually, including attending college with state aid. Others are also working and living in homes of their own.
They still meet in a discreet way. Some of them have even changed their names. The idea is to not be identified as children of the couple, and thus not be labeled as victims enabling them to go on with life as normally as possible.