California couple who shackled children face life in prison
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The desperate cry for help came from a girl who had lived in such isolation for 17 years that she didn’t know her address, the month of the year or what the word medication meant.
But after jumping out a window from the filthy home where she lived with her parents and 12 siblings, 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.
The brave girl’s call that freed her siblings — some who had been chained to their beds — led to the opposite fate for their parents, David and Louise Turpin, who face 25 years to life in prison when sentenced Friday.
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 girls unable to bear children.
Before the 17-year-old escaped from the home in a middle-class section of the city of Perris, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) 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.
Their home was 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 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 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 on them Thursday.
It’s not clear if any children will attend the 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 their clients 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.