California Couple Who Held 13 Malnourished Children Chained Appear in Court to Face Torture Charges

PERRIS, Calif. — The California couple accused of holding their 13 children captive in their home, allowing them to have one meal a day and chaining some to their beds as punishment, appeared in court on Thursday to face multiple charges that carry a penalty of up to 94 years behind bars.

Attorneys for David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin, 49, entered not guilty pleas for 12 counts of torture, six counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse or neglect and 12 counts of false imprisonment. David Turpin is also charged with one count of committing a lewd act on a child by force.

Some charges only reflected 12 children since the youngest, age 2, appeared in the best condition of all of the siblings.

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin explained both in court and during a press conference the serious allegations made against the Turpins. He outlined that the couple’s 29-year-old daughter only weighs 82 pounds and the 12-year-old has the weight of a seven-year-old. Hestrin said that the family would sleep all day and be up all night.

“Victims report that as a punishment, starting many years ago, they began to be tied up,” he explained. “One victim at one point was tied up and hogtied, and then when that victim was able to escape the ropes, these defendants eventually began using chains and padlocks.”

He said that the punishment would vary from weeks to months.

Hestrin also stated that the children were not permitted to have toys, although investigators found unused toys in their original boxes in the home. Instead, all the children were allowed to do was to write. Authorities are now reviewing hundreds of journals for evidence.

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However, a number of the children didn’t know much about life outside of the home, as some weren’t familiar with what a police officer was, and when the 17-year-old was asked if any of the siblings were on medication, she didn’t know what that meant.

“[T]he parents would apparently buy food for themselves and not allow the children to eat it,” Hestrin stated. “They would buy food, including pies—apple pies, pumpkin pies—[and] leave it on the counter, let the children look at it, but not eat.”

It is also alleged that the children were only allowed to shower once a year, and that the house smelled of urine. Some of the siblings have cognitive disabilities and nerve damage due to the abuse, which also included physical beatings.

“This is severe, emotional and physical abuse. There is no way around that,” Hestrin said. “This is depraved conduct.”

“As a prosecutor, there are cases that stick with you, that will haunt you,” he stated. “Sometimes in this business, we’re faced with looking at human depravity—and that’s what we’re looking at here.”

According to reports, the children spent the past two years hatching a plan to escape. The 17-year-old who fled through a window on Sunday initially was accompanied by one of her siblings, but they became scared and eventually turned around and went back in the house.

As previously reported, the teenage girl called 911 from a deactivated cell phone and told the responding officers that she and her siblings were being held captive by their parents. She also showed them photos as proof.

“Further investigation revealed several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings, but the parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in that manner,” the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department reported on Monday night.

It explained that officers thought all of the siblings were children due to their size and condition from malnourishment, but were shocked to learn that seven of them were actually adults, ages 18 to 29. Authorities state that Louise Turpin appeared “perplexed” as to why the police were there.

The children, who were transported to the hospital for examination, are being fed and provided with vitamins, and the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services is seeking court approval to care for the siblings.

The Turpins are scheduled to appear in court again on Feb. 23. Bail has been set at $12 million each.

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  • Meldon Scott

    Horrible, how could parents treat their own children like that.

    • LynnRH

      Mental illness. Seems to be a lot of that these days.

  • What they truly deserve is to face the executioner.

  • Georgie Franklin

    Funny they failed to mention they were Christian homeschoolers.

    • LynnRH

      There’s Christian homeschoolers and then there are true Christian homeschoolers.

  • Croquet_Player

    I’m afraid this horrifying crime highlights one of the central problems with “home schooling”. There is no oversight. Children who are beaten, malnourished, etc., are usually brought to the attention of authorities by teachers, other parents, etc., who see the children at school, (or see that they are missing from school with unexplained absences) and see that they are visibly injured, hungry, underweight, sick, and so on. I’m all for the rights of parents to home school. But there must be some sort of “check-in” where we can be sure that home schooled children are living in good homes, and actually being given a good, thorough education.

    • cadcoke5

      I had a relative who was teased heavily in school. There was no effective oversight, and emotional problems from this followed him into adulthood. This is actually fairly common. There are also many instances of abuse by teachers, and even sexual abuse. This is even though there are MANY levels of oversight.

      And while the above practices are generally against public school policy, the public school system is quite dogmatic about its teachings on origins, and morality. They now require students students to submit to being in gender specific places with members of the opposite sex, even when fully undressed.

      Of course, the public school system is quite large, so you expect to see a lot more examples of abuse that are against school policy. But, such abuse is common enough that it is not particularly newsworthy, unless it is an unusually bad example, or results in a students death. So, I don’t know the statistics of abuse, or if such statistics can be reliably collected.

      Without such evidence, I think it is incorrect to use this example to argue that home schoolers need government control/supervision. And, be assured, that there are forces that will work hard to make that intrusion as invasive and controlling as possible. It was a very long and hard fought battle, to be able to home school, and not have your children automatically taken away from you.

      • LynnRH

        I also agree with what you have said. But I still think it would be good to have a “check-in” periodically just so that there are more “eyes” on helpless children.

        • towerofshelly

          The ‘check’ should be the people who live around you. Neighbors, family. If something seems weird and you never see kids that you know are in a house, or you see strange things going on – call child protective services! There doesn’t need to be some mandatory check for every home schooling family if people just use their common sense and the systems that are already in place!

          • towerofshelly

            TALK TO YOUR NEIGHBORS, for crying out loud! Get to know them!

      • Croquet_Player

        I thank you for your thoughtful and polite reply. Indeed, as you point out, students in any system can be overlooked and abused. I’m terribly sorry to hear of your relative’s horrifying experience. In fact it is all the more shocking when there is supposed to be oversight, and yet abused children are missed. My point is, how did this family sweep their children up into “we’re homeschooling” and no one ever heard from them again until suddenly we all find out their children were chained to beds, unfed, and completely retarded as a result? I don’t mean “retarded” as an insult. I mean it in the clinical sense. They were denied nutrition, exercise, social interaction, etc., They will never fully recover. These children were tortured.

        I personally know some children that are home schooled. They are happy, healthy children, with plenty of other interaction with other children their age in scouting, baseball, neighborhood parties, and so forth. In fact, and this should be noted, they exceed their peers on relative academic tests. But of course their parents are not crazy people. And this is where the problem lies. Some people are just crazy. And instead of teaching their children to read and write, they will chain their children to their beds, and deny them food, for many years.

        I think you and I are in favor of the rights of home schoolers. I am not in favor of insane people withdrawing their entire family off the social map, never to be seen again, until it turns out starving children were in bed with their own feces for many years, until finally one victim, a girl, escaped.

        Let’s be very clear about what happened here.

    • LynnRH

      I totally agree with the “check-in” idea.

    • towerofshelly

      Every state has their own individual home school laws. Here in Ohio, I notify my local school district with an outline/description of materials I plan to use to meet what Ohio law requires for 900 hours of my children’s education. I also either send an assessment by a certified teacher or aggregate test scores for them. Technically, these were not home schoolers. There is a separate part of the law in some states that allows you to set yourself up as your own private school (so that you don’t have to notify your local school district or send them a teacher assessment/test scores). That’s what these people did. They set themselves up as their own private school. Home schooling is not the issue. Mental illness is the issue, and bystanders not wanting to get involved. The neighbors reported bizarre activity at the house – children marching for hours upstairs in the middle of the night, doing yard work in the middle of the night, and never seeing the children during the day. Had that been reported and the children’s services investigated, the abuse would have been discovered and stopped a lot sooner. There are far more cases of children being abused in various ways in public and private schools than in home school settings. People who take on the huge responsibility of home schooling their children, as a whole, do so because they are heavily invested in the well-being of their children – not because they want to abuse them.