Some of the 13 children held captive for years in a horrific child abuse case gave emotional statements in court as their parents were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison Friday. The “house of horrors” case shocked the country in January 2018 after a 17-year-old girl jumped out a window from the filthy home where she lived in isolation with her parents and 12 siblings.
The girl didn’t know what month it was or what the word medication meant, but knew enough to punch the digits 911 into a barely workable cellphone and then began describing years of abuse to a police dispatcher.
The couple 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 of the girls unable to bear children.
Louise Turpin cries as she apologizes in a Riverside, California court Friday before she is sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for holding her children captive CBS LA
Some of the children, who were not filmed, described still struggling with moving on from the plight, but expressed joy at being able to live new lives and attend school.
“My parents took my whole life from me, but now I’m taking my life back,” said one girl who described attending college and living independently.
She 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.”
Another sibling said he learned how to ride a bike in June and “since then, I’ve been hooked.” He described going to college and studying to be a software engineer, and said he hopes to earn his master’s degree.
He said he has forgiven his parents for “a lot of the things that they did to us,” but still struggles emotionally.
“I cannot describe in words what we went through growing up,” he said, crying. “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 children said they still love their parents. One asked in a statement for a lighter sentence because “they believed everything they did was to protect us.” She also said she wanted to have contact with them again, and asked that they be incarcerated nearby.
“I believe our parents feared if they asked for help, they would lose their children,” the girl’s statement said.
Louise Turpin wept as she apologized for hurting her children.
“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,” she said.
She said she “looks forward to the day I can see them and hug them and tell them I’m sorry.”
Her husband David Turpin struggled to give a short statement before his lawyer read a portion of it for him.
“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.”
Turpin read the final portion of the statement himself, saying he hoped his children succeeded in school and later, in their chosen professions.
Louise and David Turpin at a preliminary hearing June 20, 2018 CBS LA reporter Nicole Comstock via TwitterBut a judge admonished the couple, saying any success the siblings achieved would be in spite of, not because of, their parents. Judge Bernard Schwartz called the couple’s actions “selfish, cruel, and inhumane.”
“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.
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.
The exterior of their home appeared 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 to one per day, a combination of lunch and dinner.
The Turpin offspring weren’t allowed to play like normal 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, declined to comment Thursday.
It’s not clear if any children will attend Friday’s sentencing, but they will be offered a chance to speak or can offer written statements to be read in court.
Defense attorneys would not say if the David or Louise Turpin will address the court.
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.