Turpins get 25 years to life for torturing and imprisoning their children

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A Perris couple who for years tortured, abused and imprisoned their children, starving them and at times chaining them to their beds, were sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in prison.

“I cannot describe in words what we went through growing up. Sometimes I still have nightmares of things that have happened,” one of the victims told the court before the sentencing. “But that is the past and this is now. I love my parents and have forgiven them for a lot of the things that they did to us.”

David and Louise Turpin, who are the parents of 13 children, each pleaded guilty to 14 felony charges in February, including one count of torture, four of false imprisonment, six of cruelty to adult dependents and three of willful child cruelty.

The horrific details of the case have drawn attention around the world, but Friday was the first time some of the siblings publicly spoke for themselves. Their message was largely one of looking toward the future. A number of them described the love they still have for their parents.

Jane Doe No. 4, who is 30 years old, walked into the courtroom with tears in her eyes, holding a cup of water and notes in one hand. She spoke softly, was extremely thin and looked frail, but her message spoke to strength and resilience.

“My parents took my whole life from me, but now I’m taking my life back. I’m in college now and living independently,” she said. “I believe everything happens for a reason. Life may have been bad, but it made me strong. I fought to become the person I am.”

She said she had watched her father change her mother. “They almost changed me,” she said.

But “I’m a fighter, I’m strong and I’m shooting through life like a rocket,” she said.

As she spoke, Louise Turpin, who before the hearing had been smiling and laughing with her lawyer, began to cry.

When she finished reading her statement, Jane Doe No. 4 took a seat in the courtroom and was followed by her brother, who gave his name, Joshua. He is 27 years old.

As the two oldest children, their lawyer later said, Joshua and Jane Doe No. 4 felt an obligation to speak for their siblings.

Joshua began by reading a statement written by another sister, Jessica, 25.

"I love both my parents so much. Although it may not have been the best way of raising us, I’m glad that they did because it made me the person I am today. I just want to thank them for teaching me about God and faith,” the statement said. “I pray often for them.”

Jessica’s statement went on to describe the things she has learned since her parents were arrested.

“I am doing well,” the statement said. “I am going to college full time. I have an apartment and I am able to transport myself independently by bus, bike or walking. We are not supposed to necessarily understand God’s will, but we are only to follow and trust in him, for as the heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.”

When Joshua read his own statement, he described how he still has nightmares of the abuse he endured.

And he detailed all that he has learned since he was rescued from his parents.

"In June of last year, I learned how to ride a bike and since then I have been hooked and ride it everywhere," he said. "Sometimes I just go on long rides because I enjoy it so much."

He now lives in an apartment and is studying to become a software engineer, he said. And he spoke of aspiring to get a master's degree.

“I also have learned to advocate for myself,” he said.

In another statement, which was read by a victims’ advocate, one of the Turpins’ children described her hope that she could talk to her parents again.

“I believe our parents tried their best. … They believed everything they did was to protect us,” the statement said. “I want to be allowed to talk to both my parents by phone.”

David and Louise Turpin also read their own statements.

“My homeschooling and discipline had good intention,” David Turpin said in a statement that was initially read by his attorney. “I never intended for any harm to come to my children. I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to cause them harm.”

Louise Turpin said she had only wanted the best for her children and was sorry “for everything I’ve done to hurt my children.”

“I love my children so much. I’m blessed to be the mother of each one of them,” she said. “I only want the best for them. … I want them to know that mom and dad are going to be OK.”

The abuse that the children endured had gone seemingly unnoticed in the couple’s Perris neighborhood until January 2018, when one of them climbed out of a window and called 911 to ask for help.

Inside the family's home on Muir Woods Road, deputies found two young girls who had been chained to their bed for weeks. Twelve of the 13 siblings were so frail and malnourished that deputies at first assumed they were all minors; they later learned that seven were adults.

Investigators later learned that the chains were punishment for stealing candy.

Prosecutors said the couple had abused and neglected their children for years, dating back to the 1990s, when the family lived in Texas.

At a hearing in June, investigators said the siblings told them that while they lived in Texas, David Turpin would inflict physical punishments that escalated in severity. At times, the children were placed in cages or a dog kennel. In California, Louise Turpin was the one who inflicted much of the corporal punishment, investigators said.

According to investigators, the parents abandoned their children for about three or four years, leaving them to live in a trailer in the small town of Rio Vista, Texas, while the couple lived nearby.

During that time, the parents would call the siblings by phone and force the two oldest children to punish the others, investigators said.

David Turpin “conditioned the children over years, over decades, of physical torment and abuse, all stemming from Texas,” Riverside County Deputy Dist. Atty. Kevin Beecham said at the hearing in June. “He conditioned them in a way that's unimaginable. … When the parents weren't there, they were still forced to obey.”

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©2019 the Los Angeles Times

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