The Turpin case is an alleged child abuse and captivity incident discovered in Perris, California, United States, in which David and Louise Turpin allegedly imprisoned their thirteen children for years or even decades. On January 14, 2018, one of the children escaped and contacted police who, on entering the home, found some of the children in a dark, foul-smelling room. The siblings ranged in age from 2 to 29, with seven of the thirteen children being over the age of 18 at the time of the parents' arrest.
The Turpins allegedly shackled, beat and strangled their children, allowing them to eat just once per day and shower just once per year. According to investigators, the older ones were so malnourished that they appeared to be much younger. The eldest, a 29-year-old woman, weighed just 82 pounds (37 kg). Some of the siblings appeared to lack basic knowledge of the world, being unfamiliar with what medicine and police were.
The couple were arrested and detained but pleaded not guilty to all charges. Various legal charges and court hearings followed in the succeeding months. The case is considered "extraordinary for numerous reasons", such as the alleged abuse being done to multiple children by two parents (whereas abuse with only one child victim is more common), and according to Dr. Bernard Gallagher, because "you don't often get cases of children being tortured, where the abuse seems calculated".
Suspects David Allen Turpin (born October 17, 1961) and Louise Anna Turpin (born May 24, 1968) were married in 1985 in Pearisburg, Virginia, when David was 23 and Louise was 16 years old. The couple eloped, angering her father, church pastor Wayne Robinette.
David, according to his parents, is a computer engineer who graduated from Virginia Tech. In 1979, he graduated from Princeton High School in West Virginia. The school's 1979 yearbook listed him as the treasurer of the Bible Club, co-captain of the Chess Club, and a member of the Science Club and Acapella Choir. Louise's occupation was listed in court documents as a homemaker. The couple are adherents of the Quiverfull movement and Pentecostalism. According to David's parents, the couple kept having children because "God called on them" to do so. The children's homeschooling involved memorizing the Bible, and a few tried to memorize it in its entirety. David made about $140,000 per year at Northrop Grumman and had about $150,000 in assets. The Turpins declared bankruptcy in 2011, owing debt between $100,000 and $500,000.
The couple rented a postal box in Burleson, Texas, from 1986 to 2003. They owned property or had lived in Rio Vista and Fort Worth, and left the area in 2010. After the Turpins moved out of the house, neighbors visited the property and reportedly found feces throughout the residence, beds with ropes tied to them, several dead cats and dogs in a trailer and large piles of garbage around the property. The neighbors did not disclose their findings to any authorities. In their California house, the yard was unkempt with overgrown weeds, prompting a code violation. Neighbors in California reported that on the occasion they would see the children, they would freeze and stay silent when spoken to, "like children whose only defense was to be invisible." They would skip around rather than walk, and appeared malnourished and pale.
The Turpin children had been planning an escape for more than two years. On January 14, 2018, two of them left the house through a window. One returned home out of fear, but a 17-year-old daughter got away. She was in possession of a cell phone, and, though deactivated, she was able to call 9-1-1. When police met her, she showed officers photos of conditions in the home. Deputies of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department converged on the house, where they found the twelve other siblings, one of whom (aged 22) was shackled to a bed with chains. The deputies suspected that an additional two had also been shackled just prior to their entry into the house. The deputies described the siblings as having a malnourished and dirty appearance and looking to be younger than their ages. They had initially assumed that all in the group were minors, but they later determined that their ages ranged from 2 to 29, with seven being legal adults (18 or older).
The Sheriff's Department said that Louise was "perplexed" when deputies entered the residence. They also said, "The parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in [the manner that they were]." The six minors, ranging from ages 2 to 17, were transported to Riverside County Regional Medical Center, where they were admitted to the pediatrics unit for treatment. Corona Regional Medical Center said that the facility was treating the seven adult children, describing them as small and clearly malnourished, but stable, relieved and very friendly. As of late February, the seven adult children remained at the medical center, while the six younger siblings were in the care of two foster homes.
On January 14, 2018, David and Louise Turpin were arrested on suspicion of child endangerment and torture and held at a Riverside County jail on $9 million bail. Some sources reported that bail had been set as high as $12 million each. Police searched the Turpins' property on January 17, taking away black plastic bags of evidence. Hundreds of journals written by the children were recovered from the home. Although their admissibility in court is dubious, they are expected to provide unique insights into the experiences of victims of torture and long-term captivity.
The Turpins were charged on January 18 with twelve counts of torture, twelve counts of false imprisonment, seven counts of abuse on a dependent adult, and six counts of child abuse. David received an additional charge of a lewd act on a child under 14 years old. If convicted on all counts, the two could be sent to prison for 94 years to life imprisonment. Upon announcing the charges against the Turpins, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said, "The abuse and severe neglect intensified over time and intensified as they moved to California." The couple pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In a brief hearing on January 24, the judge accepted the prosecutors' request for a restraining order forbidding contact between the Turpin parents and their children for a period of three years. The parents are prohibited from coming within 100 yards (91 m) of any of their children or establishing electronic contact with them. Both defendants agreed to these restrictions.
On February 23, Hestrin filed an additional three charges of child abuse against the couple, and one felony assault charge against Louise individually. A Felony Settlement Conference was scheduled for March 23, with a preliminary hearing following on May 14. On May 4, David was charged with eight counts of perjury in relation to affidavits he filed with the California Department of Education between the years 2010–2017, stating that "the children in the home were receiving a fulltime education in a private day school". A preliminary hearing date for the couple was scheduled for June 20, 2018.
On January 17, 2018, Louise's sister said that she begged for decades to see her nieces and nephews, even through Skype, but the couple would not let her. Another sister of Louise said she was concerned about the children's weights. Louise Turpin's aunt said, "With the pictures they put on Facebook, you thought they were one big happy family." David's parents said they were "surprised and shocked" at the allegations against their son and daughter-in-law. The couple's previous bankruptcy lawyer said that she met with the couple about four or five times in 2011 and described them as "just very normal."
|“Louise Turpin’s Sister Teresa Robinette” – Megyn Kelly Today, YouTube video (7:56 min.)|
|"Louise Turpin’s Sister and Cousin Open Up About Childhood Abuse, doctoroz.com video (3:49 min.)|
|“Former neighbors of Louise and David Turpin” – Dr. Phil, YouTube video (2:39 min.)|
The television series Dr. Phil, episode: “Inside the California ‘House of Horrors'”, aired: January 2018, family, neighbors, and friends speak with Dr. Phil concerning the secrets that were allegedly occurring within the home. Kidnap survivor Michelle Knight shares a message for the children.
The Turpins' case is extraordinary for numerous reasons - particularly as the allegations are against two parents who had multiple children together. Prof Browne, director of the Centre for Forensic and Family Psychology at the University of Nottingham, says it is more common to see cases where there is one child and the parent or parents cannot cope, so the situation spirals out of control. Dr Bernard Gallagher, a child protection expert at the University of Huddersfield, says: "I see a lot of cases of neglect, where children are not washed or fed properly, but you don't often get cases of children being tortured, where the abuse seems calculated."
She tells Megyn Kelly that she hopes her 13 nieces and nephews can one day lead a happy and normal existence. “I hope to put my arm around them and tell them they have a family that is not deranged."