The Turpins Kept Their 13 Kids Shackled In Filthy Conditions For More Than Two Decades

In January of 2018, a distraught teenager called 911. The 17-year-old reported she had escaped from her parents, leaving 12 siblings held captive in their Perris, California home. Police responded to the call and found a bizarre and heinous scene: David and Louise Turpin had kept some of their kids bound in shackles and chained to the furniture in filthy bedrooms. All were severely malnourished and appeared many years younger than they were. This abuse had been going on for decades, as the children's ages ranged from 2 to 29. There were reports the Turpin parents even treated the family pets better than the children. 

David and Louise Turpin are charged with multiple counts of torture and child endangerment and face life imprisonment. The parents entered "not guilty" pleas and opted not to comment. Authorities removed the children from the Turpins' custody and placed them in rehabilitation hospitals for ongoing treatment and counsel. The following can't explain why David and Louise Turpin confined their children, but the details cast light on who the Turpins are, and what exactly happened to "the Magnificent 13."

  • David And Louise Turpin Are Sentenced To Life In Prison

    David And Louise Turpin Are Sentenced To Life In Prison
    Video: YouTube

    On April 19, 2019, David and Louise Turpin were sentenced to life in prison with possibility of parole after 25 years in an emotional hearing. One of the family's daughters gave a statement in which she spoke about going to college, living independently, and said, "My parents took my whole life from me but now I'm taking my life back."

    One of the family's sons said:

    I cannot describe in words what we went through growing up... 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. I have learned so much and become very independent.

    Lousie Turin wept as she apologized for the way she has hurt her kids. David struggled to keep his composure as he read: "I never intended for any harm to come to my children. I'm sorry if I've done anything to cause them harm... I love my children and believe my children love me... I hope the very best for my children in the future."

  • A 17-Year-Old Girl Escaped And Notified Authorities

    A 17-Year-Old Girl Escaped And Notified Authorities
    Photo: Ruin Raider / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    On January 14, 2018, one of the 13 Turpin siblings escaped from the family home by climbing out of the window and calling 911. She told officers she was being held captive, along with her brothers and sisters. According to CBS News:

    [The girl] spent more than two years working on the plan with her siblings, a prosecutor said. When the teen fled the house on Sunday, one of her 12 siblings accompanied her but became frightened and went back into the house.

    The police initially thought the malnourished 17-year-old was only 10 because of her small size. The state of the Turpin residence came as a surprise to law enforcement, as there were no complaints made prior.  Police immediately arrested parents David and Louise Turpin and charged them with suspicion of child torture and child endangerment. 

  • The Adult-Aged Siblings Were So Emaciated They Looked Like Children

    The Adult-Aged Siblings Were So Emaciated They Looked Like Children
    Photo: CNN International / Facebook / Public Domain

    Even though seven of the imprisoned children were legal adults aged between 18 and 29, the officers mistook them for children because of their pale demeanors and sickly-looking physical conditions. When they were picked up by the police, the children relayed their extreme hunger, so deputies reportedly gave them snacks. They were treated in local hospitals upon their parents' arrest. 

  • The Children Were Homeschooled By Their Parents

    The Children Were Homeschooled By Their Parents
    Photo: cyocum / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    David registered his household as "Sandcastle Day School" in the California Department of Education directory, and he, as well as Louise, homeschooled the children. He gained the necessary permits to operate the non-religious and co-ed institution and functioned as their principal.

    Throughout their schooling, the kids were not allowed to socialize with anyone and were kept inside for most of the time. In an interview with David's mother after the arrests, Betty admitted her son and his wife had always dressed their children in matching outfits when they left the house. According to CNN:

    The couple would line the children up according to age, [Betty Turpin] said, and the parents took their positions at the front and back of the line, for 'protective reasons.'

  • The Turpins Were Struggling Financially

    The Turpins Were Struggling Financially
    Photo: ABC News / YouTube / Fair Use

    David Turpin was once reportedly an engineer who earned $140,000 a year, but he left his job in 2010. Louise was a homemaker who received no income. In 2011, they filed for bankruptcy and had approximately $240,000 in debt from credit cards and a foreclosure on their former Texas farm. Ivan Trahan, the attorney who represented them in their bankruptcy case, was surprised when child abuse allegations came to light:

    To me and my wife, Nancy, who was with me during the interviews, we always thought of them as very nice people who spoke highly of their children [...] They seemed like very normal people who fell into financial problems.

    At the time of arrest, the Turpins lived in a single-story home tucked in a Southern California development. While it's unclear how the unemployed Turpin parents supported the family of 15, the residence reportedly had multiple new vehicles and a well-kept exterior. 


  • The Turpin Parents Pled Not Guilty To Torture And Abuse

    The Turpin Parents Pled Not Guilty To Torture And Abuse
    Video: YouTube

    When authorities apprehended David and Louise, the confused parents didn't understand why the county was mounting a legal case against them. They offered no reasons for their negligent behavior or for why they padlocked and bound their children to beds. According to CBS News, they pleaded "not guilty" to: 

    12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse or neglect and 12 counts of false imprisonment, for alleged crimes ranging from 2010 to the present. David Turpin is also charged with one count of lewd act on a child.

    Their bail is set at $9 million. If convicted, they face a prison sentence of more than 90 years. Meanwhile, the kids have a lot of recovering and readjusting to do. According to People magazine:

    Although none of their injuries are life-threatening, the siblings are being treated at local hospitals where they watch videos together while receiving care from doctors, dietitians, and counselors.