The parents of 13 children in Riverside, California are facing up to life in prison after California federal charges this week of torture and child abuse. Louise Anna Turpin, 49, and David Allen Turpin, 57, appeared in federal court on Jan. 18 and entered not guilty pleas, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. Each were held on bail of $12 million.
If they are convicted on all federal charges, including child abuse, torture, false imprisonment and a lewd act on a child under 14, they could get 94 years to life in federal prison.
House of Horrors in Suburban California
According to federal officials, one of the children is 12 and weighs about what a seven year old should weigh. The 29 year old woman victim weighs only 82 pounds. Several of the victims have neuropathy and cognitive impairment due to the long term physical and mental abuse. The prosecutor stated the victimization of the children and adults seemed to get worse over time; what was initially neglect turned into intense child abuse over several years.
The parents had registered the home as a private school within the state’s Department of Education, but it became clear during the early investigation that the children have little knowledge of life. All of the children were delivered in hospitals but they had had no medical care in years. Each child was allowed only two showers per year.
Private schools in California are subject to a yearly inspection by state inspectors or the fire marshal, but the Turpins had never told city officials that there were operating a school at home.
Federal investigators reported that the 13 children are from two to 29 years old, and would sleep all day, going to bed at five AM and then would be up the entire night. They added that the children were punished by being tied up with ropes and one victim was often hogtied. When one of the children got out of the ropes, the parents then allegedly used chains and padlocks. Punishments could last for weeks or months.
The 17 year old girl was able to escape from the home earlier this week and call 911, which led federal agents to the home. The girl had worked on the escape plan for two years, she told the police. A sibling accompanied her on the escape, but then turned around out of fear if they were caught.
Federal prosecutors further stated the children were frequently beaten and strangled. They also were not allowed to be unlocked from their chains to go to the restroom.
The feds said many of the children were not aware what a police officer was. Many of the victims were not allowed to have toys, even though there were many toys in the home in their original packaging. The children and young adults were only allowed to spend their free time writing in journals. Federal investigators recovered hundreds of journals from several children and are now analyzing them.
Worse, prosecutors said the parents ate well and would torture their children psychologically by leaving apple and pumpkin pies on the kitchen counter but would not let them eat. There also was evidence of human waste on the floors of the home, which indicated the victims were not allowed to use the toilet. The sheriff’s office noted the stench in the home was overwhelming. When they first entered the home to investigate, the 22 year old girl was chained to a couch and two others were there who had managed to get out of the chains. Only one of the children was allowed to leave the home to take classes. But he was always with his mother.
None of the children had ever seen a dentist, and most of them had not seen a doctor in several years. The 17 year old girl was asked if there were any medications in the home, but she did not understand what medicines were. The children were also not allowed to bathe on a regular basis. If the children tried to wash their hands above their wrists, they would be accused of playing with the water and would be put in chains. All of the children were kept in chains and were fed on a schedule. It appeared that only the two year old child appeared to not be abused and had gotten enough to eat.
The state prosecutor reported this week that the abuse began when the family lived in Fort Worth TX. At the time, the parents lived separate from the children and dropped off food for them every few weeks. They lived in Texas for 15 years before they went to California.
Couple Plead Not Guilty
At the arraignment, both of the accused pleaded not guilty to all charges file by the prosecutors, including abuse, false imprisonment and torture. Each of them wore black blazers that the public defender’s office gave them. They only spoke enough to say they waived their right to have a speedy hearing and trial.
The mother of David Turpin told the media this week that her son told her he had that many children because God asked them to do so. She said he shared her Pentecostal Christian faith but had not selected a church after they moved to California.
Louise Turpin’s sister stated that she had not been in contact with the family for years but she did not suspect there were any problems. She noted that she and her family thought the couple was living a normal, happy life. The sister said Louise told her they went to Disneyland often and also went to Las Vegas on vacations.
Investigators are working to determine if religious faith had a part in the torture and imprisonment of the children. All of the children that have been spoken to by law enforcement were very cooperative and polite, but they were not as yet able to provide statements. Investigators are currently working to get full statements from the adult victims.