US couple get life in prison for horrific child abuse

Louise and David Turpin pleaded guilty to multiple counts of torture and abuse and will likely spend the rest of their lives in jail.
Louise and David Turpin pleaded guilty to multiple counts of torture and abuse and will likely spend the rest of their lives in jail.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

They tortured 12 of their 13 kids, starving and even shackling them

RIVERSIDE (California) • A California couple who tortured 12 of their 13 children, starving and beating them, depriving them of sleep and sometimes shackling them to their beds with chains, were sentenced on Friday to 25 years to life in prison.

Some of their children gave statements at the sentencing hearing in Riverside, California, saying they were haunted by the abuse, but also saying that they had forgiven and still loved their parents.

One daughter told a packed courtroom that the suffering "may have been bad, but it made me strong".

"My parents took my whole life from me, but now I'm taking my life back," said the young woman, who is now in college. She added: "I'm a fighter. I'm strong."

The couple, David and Louise Turpin, cried and trembled as four of their children made statements, two of them through intermediaries, in Riverside County Superior Court.

One of the children, a young man who is studying software engineering at college, said that he had learnt to ride a bike since being rescued. "Sometimes I just go on long rides because I enjoy it so much," he said.

FIGHTING WORDS

My parents took my whole life from me, but now I'm taking my life back. I'm a fighter. I'm strong.

ONE OF THE COUPLE'S DAUGHTERS, who is now in college, on the effects of the abuse.

NO BAD INTENTIONS

I never intended for any harm to come to my children. I miss all of my children and will be praying for them.

DAVID TURPIN, on how he had good intentions for his children.

HIGH HOPES

I only want the best for them.

LOUISE TURPIN, who said she wanted to hug her children and tell them how sorry she was.

UNMOVED BY PARENTS' WORDS

...selfish, cruel and inhuman treatment.

JUDGE BERNARD SCHWARTZ, who said the Turpins had forfeited their right to raise their children.

The children were rescued in January last year after one of the girls worked up the courage to escape by jumping from a window of the suburban Los Angeles home where they had been kept prisoners.

She called 911 from a cellphone she had grabbed from the house, and in a calm, clear voice described the years of abuse to a police dispatcher.

"I've never been out. I don't go out much," the girl told the dispatcher. She was 17, but her voice sounded like that of a much younger child, because, prosecutors said, her growth had been stunted by the abuse.

The abuse left two of her sisters unable to bear children, the authorities said.

Now, in a reversal of fortune, the parents, who pleaded guilty to multiple counts of torture and abuse, are likely to spend the rest of their lives locked up.

They will be eligible for parole after 25 years, prosecutors said, but they will probably remain in prison for life.

The children ranged from two to 29 years old when they were found. Some were emaciated and appeared to have cognitive deficiencies from the abuse.

Only the toddler did not appear to have been abused, the authorities said. During the hearing on Friday, the children revealed some disturbing details of their captivity.

One of the daughters said that the children had been shackled because their parents were afraid they were consuming too much sugar and caffeine.

But her parents continued buying bottles of soda, she said, because if their father did not have it, he might fall asleep while driving and get into an accident.

Some of the children described their household as a religious place where they believed what was happening to them was God's will.

One of them quoted a Bible verse about trusting in God. Their words evoked the strange mix of terror and unreality that reigned in the household. The young woman who described herself as a fighter said: "I saw my dad change my mum. They almost changed me."

To their neighbours, the family seemed normal, if reclusive.

David Turpin, 57, had been an engineer for Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Louise Turpin, 50, apparently stayed home.

They lived in a nondescript stucco house in the small, working-class city of Perris, about 113km east of Los Angeles.

It was neat on the outside, and so did not arouse suspicion. But it reeked of human waste on the inside, where the children were often not released from their shackles to go to the bathroom.

"I never intended for any harm to come to my children," David Turpin said. "I miss all of my children and will be praying for them."

Louise Turpin said through tears that she wanted to hug her children and tell them how sorry she was. "I only want the best for them," she said.

The judge, Mr Bernard Schwartz, was unmoved.

Children, the judge said, are "a gift", but the parents had forfeited their right to raise them by their "selfish, cruel and inhuman treatment".

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 21, 2019, with the headline 'US couple get life in prison for horrific child abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe