David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin, a former California engineer and his homemaker wife, are accused of what a prosecutor called “human depravity” against their 13 children, for allegedly torturing their offspring in a house of horrors by chaining them to beds in “dark and foul-smelling surroundings,” starving them for years, and subjecting them to beatings and even strangulation.
The chilling accusations of abuse emerged after one of the teenagers, a 17-year-old girl, who was so emaciated she looked age 10, staged a courageous escape by climbing through a window, executing a plan she’d crafted with her siblings for two years, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in a January 18, 2018 press conference.
Hestrin released a series of monstrously chilling details in the case; he alleges that the parents would place apple pies on the counter but deny their children – some of whom were adults – food even as they ate it themselves. As a result, their oldest child, a 29-year-old female, is only 82 pounds, he said. The children had never been to the dentist and were subjected to an environment of such intense control that they were not released from their chains even to go to the bathroom, weren’t allowed to shower more than once a year, were denied toys that were strewn around the home unopened, and were only awake at night, the DA alleged.
“One victim at one point was tied up and hog tied and then when that victim was able to escape the ropes, these defendants eventually began using chains and padlocks to chain up the victims to their beds,” Hestrin alleged.
The Perris, California couple, ran a day school out of their home and were beset with financial problems in recent years, but authorities say the children lacked even the most basic knowledge of life. Some of those chained up are adults; the couple’s 13 children ranged in age from 2 to 29, according to a press release from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. Formal charges were filed against the parents on January 18 for alleged torture, abuse of a dependent adult, false imprisonment, child abuse and neglect, and, in the case of the father, a charge of committing a lewd act on a child.
The escaping teenager used a deactivated cell phone she found in the home to dial 911, authorities say, describing a real-life tale almost reminiscent of Flowers in the Attic, in which children were kept from the outside world. Some people who knew the family, including the Elvis impersonator who helped them renew their vows in 2016, said that nothing seemed amiss at that time, although they were a memorable family due to their size and matching clothing.
However, some neighbors described the Turpins as the “Vampire family” because they were so pale and seemed to emerge only at night. Another neighbor claimed the family were “hoarders” when they lived in Texas. Authorities confirmed that the nocturnal family would stay up all night and sleep all day.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Authorities Were ‘Shocked’ That Some of the Emaciated Children, Who Often Wore Matching Clothing, Were Adults & Photos Show The Turpins at Disneyland
The obvious question after hearing so many disturbing accusations is why? Why would parents subject their children to such alleged horrors? Hestrin, the DA, said he could not answer that question, and he said there was no evidence that religion or a cult played a role. However, family members defined the couple through their religious faith, and a Texas friend of some of the children, Ashely Vinyard, alleged to Daily Mail that “she remembers seeing religious material on the floors, ‘stuff like preparing for Armageddon. It looked like a cult house, it was kind of scary.'”
“David and Louise Turpin are considered a good Christian family in their community,” David Turpin’s parents, who live in West Virginia, insisted to ABC News. The network added that the grandparents can’t understand “any of this.” They claimed the Turpins had so many offspring because “God called on them.”
“It’s a very serious case,” David Turpin’s attorney said after the parents’ first court hearing, adding that the he might ask for a bail hearing for the father. “What we would like the public to know is that our clients are presumed innocent…We are going to provide a vigorous defense… the case will be tried in court. It will not be tried in the media,” he said.
Authorities, though, said that the children were starved and abused since at least 2010. Authorities confirmed that the Turpin children were home-schooled, but Hestrin said they were so lacking of basic knowledge about life that one didn’t know what a police officer was and another didn’t understand the meaning of the words pills and medication.
David Turpin is 56, according to jail records, and his wife Louise Turpin is 49. The parents were confronted by authorities at their home and taken into custody, according to the news release. Hestrin said they had managed to unshackle two children while police officers stood at the door. “An 11 and 14-year-old were unchained as the police stood at the door while a 22-year-old remained chained to a bed when the police entered the home,” alleged Hestrin.
In a press conference on January 16, authorities repeatedly praised the courage and bravery of the 17-year-old girl who escaped from the home, also describing the situation in stark terms; “the children were malnourished, it was very dirty and the conditions were horrific,” said Riverside County sheriff’s Capt. Greg Fellows. Some neighbors told UK Mirror they periodically saw the children “scavenging in bins” looking for food when they weren’t memorizing lengthy Bible passages.
The people discovered inside the home were so emaciated that deputies assumed they were all children at first, even though it later turned out that one was 29-years-old and others were also adults, a law enforcement press release says. However, some neighbors expressed shock, with one telling the Press-Enterprise newspaper that he didn’t even realize there were children inside the residence. The press release described the daring escape. “Early Sunday morning on January 14, 2018, a 17-year old juvenile escaped from her residence situated in the 100 Block of Muir Woods Road, Perris and managed to call 911 from a cellular device she found inside the house,” the release said.
“The abuse and severe neglect intensified over time and intensified as they moved to California,” Hestrin alleged, adding that another sibling initially left with the teenager who alerted authorities but became too frightened and turned back. The horrors might have continued were it not for the teenager who managed to escape from the home, spurring the rescue, according to the Sheriff’s Department. She showed photos to deputies that convinced them her story was real.
“Deputies located what they believed to be 12 children inside the house, but were shocked to discover that 7 of them were actually adults, ranging in age from 18 to 29,” according to the release. The 13th child is the one who alerted authorities. Perris is a community near Riverside, California that is about an hour from Los Angeles.
The couple shared a joint Facebook page. Most photos showed them with an infant or together, including renewing their vows with an Elvis impersonator. Several photos showed all of the children, sometimes wearing matching clothing. The children do not look emaciated in the pictures, although all of the photos are at least more than a year old. “Beautiful picture. 12 and one more. I think it is called, ‘The Dirty Dozen,'” a friend wrote under a family picture.
Friends made typical comments on photos as if the family was a loving one. “is okay you guys look like your having just as much fun as the kids,” wrote one friend on a photo of the couple at Disneyland. Another wrote, “I watched your wedding video. It was great. Your children are so well behaved. I am so proud of you Louise and David. You have a great family.”
The Turpins’ cover photo showed the children in matching purple dresses with the smallest child in front. It was posted in July 2016, and the children appear normal in it. There are no new public photos of the family since July 2016. The photos show that nine of the older children are girls.
“Beautiful family,” a friend commented on one family photo. Other photos showed an infant child on Santa’s lap and the children posing with Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters. One of the Facebook page’s few likes was for Radio Disney. The family was so obsessed with the theme park that they even had personalized Disneyland license plates, according to UK Daily Mail.
According to Kent Ripley, the Las Vegas entertainer and Elvis impersonator who was present when the Turpins renewed their vows, there seemed to be nothing amiss. He said the couple renewed their vows at the Elvis Chapel at least three times, including for their 30th wedding anniversary. He has not seen the family since 2016, he said.
He described the allegations as “shocking. Through the years, I actually remember them every well,” Ripley said in an interview with Heavy.com. “It’s not every day you meet a family with 12, 13 kids.” He said the couple had 11 children the first time he met them, but the family kept growing.
“They were unique because of the size of the family, the Brady Bunch times 2 plus 1,” he said of the first time he met them. “They seemed to enjoy themselves as a family, they seemed to get along, and the children were well-behaved.”
He said the children “definitely were skinny but seemed to be active and always going places and doing stuff. I do remember they were taught at home; they were home schooled. David had a fairly decent job. To support the family, he was a hard worker.”
According to Ripley, the children “all dressed alike,” and the boys had the same bowl-like haircut as their father. “I joked to him about being a Beatles fan and having a Beatles haircut,” said Ripley. “They seemed to enjoy each other,” he said of the family. “I’m speechless. I hope the kids are okay…David seemed to be very much caring for the kids and his wife.”
The couple’s 30th wedding anniversary was in 2015, which would have made Louise Turpin around 17 when she married David Turpin.
2. The Turpins Previously Declared Bankruptcy & David Turpin Worked for a Defense Contractor
The family had lived in the City of Perris since 2014, and previously lived in Texas for 17 years and in Murrieta, California, authorities said. In Texas, for a time, the parents even lived apart from most of their children, Hestrin said, and they would visit the children periodically to bring food. “David Turpin did have a job. He was employed. They did have money coming in. They bought a lot of toys that they never opened. They bought food that they ate and didn’t share with their children,” Hestrin said.
He alleged that the parents “would apparently buy food for themselves and not allow the children to eat it… including apple pies and pumpkin pies.” He said they would leave the pies on the counter for the children to look at but not eat.
Court records show the Turpins declared bankruptcy in 2011. You can read the documents here:
At the time of the bankruptcy, the couple was living in Murrieta, California. Although they had a lot of mouths to feed, the court records indicate that David Turpin earned more than $11,000 a month working as an engineer for Northrop Grumman, a global security company in San Diego. He also received QuickSilver royalties, the court records showed. It’s not clear where Turpin was working at the time of his arrest.
However, the family was struggling with credit card and other debt, including from a farm foreclosure, in 2011, the records show. David Turpin listed a 401K from Lockheed Martin as an asset. It had more than $80,000 in it. The couple’s bankruptcy attorney, Ivan Trahan, told The New York Times that the couple spoke often and “highly” about their children, and that they had 12 at the time of the filing.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the couple also had a second bankruptcy filing.
In 2011, Louise Turpin appears to have written on a comment thread on the couple’s Facebook page: “David is working at Northrop again. We are doing good and we really like it here. It wiill (sic) be 2 years in June we moved here.”
Medical professionals said in a press conference that, in cases of starvation, it’s important to ease back into nourishment and described the children as friendly and cooperative, adding that, for those over 18, it was “hard to think of them as adults” because they are very small. They are now in a safe environment and hopeful about the future, officials said.
“The teenager claimed her 12 brothers and sisters were being held captive inside the residence by her parents and further claimed some of her siblings were bound with chains and padlocks,” added the release. ABC News reported that the children are the biological offspring of David and Louise Turpin.
According to Hestrin, the children suffered “severe caloric malnutrition associated with muscle wasting.” He said that “one of the children at age 12-years-old is the weight of an average 7-year-old.” Several of the victims have “have cognitive impairment and… nerve damage” due to “extreme and prolonged physical abuse,” alleged the DA.
A childhood friend who knew the family in Texas told UK Daily Mail that they found a kitten thrown away in a dumpster when the family moved and described finding dogs eating dirty diapers inside the home and empty Vienna sausage cans strewn around.
3. The Family’s Home Registers to a Day School & Neighbors Said the Family Endured a ‘Military Style’ Existence, Awakening Only at Night
State Department of Education records document a day school at the Turpin address called Sandcastle Day School. The records list David Turpin as the school’s principal and say it is a private K-12 school. Fellows said authorities have no evidence to show that the school educated anyone other than the couple’s own children, but the investigation is ongoing.
One of the older children, a boy, was allowed to attend college classes for a time, Hestrin said. “What we know so far is that Louise Turpin would accompany him, wait outside the classroom for him, when he was finished with class, she would take him home,” alleged Hestrin. “This is severe emotional, physical abuse… this is depraved conduct.”
He said only the 2-year-old appeared to be properly nourished.
The children endured a bizarre existence, reports say. A former neighbor told UK Daily Mail that the children “were frequently taken out late at night by their parents and endured a ‘military style’ existence at home” that allegedly included the “robotic” children “marching in circles around an upstairs bedroom for ‘hours at a time.'” The children spoke together in unison and, as a result, his wife called the children the “clones,” the neighbor told Daily Mail.
Hestrin, the prosecutor, said that all 13 victims – and the parents – would “typically go to sleep around 4 or 5 in the morning, sleep all day and then are up all through the night.”
According to Fellows, “there were three individuals that were chained to some type of furniture inside the residence.” Authorities said that there was no indication of mental illness at this time. However, the children’s aunt, Elizabeth Jane Flores, now claims the dad “would creepily watch her in the shower when she lived with the family for a short time.”
Hestrin said the lewd act charge against David Turpin derives from accusations that he “touched one of the victims in a lewd way.”
An Excel sheet posted by the state Education Department shows that the school most recently had an enrollment of six children. It lists a child each in grades 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 12. The school graduated 1 student and was listed as “non-religious.”
James and Betty Turpin, the grandparents, told ABC News that “they hadn’t seen their son and daughter-in-law since visiting them in California some four to five years ago,” adding that, when they spoke with the family by phone, the Turpins were generally without their children.
Betty Turpin told CNN that the couple dressed their children in matching clothes for safety reasons, adding: “They were very protective of the kids.” According to CNN, “the couple would line the children up according to age, and the parents took their positions at the front and back of the line,” Betty Turpin said.
Once authorities arrived at the home, they noticed that there was truth to the statement of the escaping teen, the press release indicates.
“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 release alleges.
A neighbor, Wendy Martinez, told NBC Los Angeles that the children “looked very unnutrioned [sic], very white, like they never got sun at all. I mean, they would never come out and when they did, the lady would stand there watching them.”
4. A Friend Called Louise Turpin a ‘Super Mom’ But the Children Were Only Allowed to Write in Journals & Were Punished If They Washed Their Hands Above the Wrist, Officials Allege
In 2012, a friend wrote on the Turpins’ Facebook page: ” Louise Turpin is a super mom. I really couldn’t have handled it. i KEPT BUSY FROM MORNING UNTIL NIGHT WITH MY FOUR.” Another friend wrote, “Blown away how I have my hands full with just one and look at you!”
However, sheriff’s officials say they found the children in an extreme state of need. “The victims appeared to be malnourished and very dirty. Perris Station Detectives were dispatched to the residence for further investigation,” authorities reported. Hestrin alleged that the only thing the children were allowed to do was write in journals, and he says that authorities have hundreds of them that they are currently reviewing.
“It appeared that no one noticed what was happening,” said Hestrin.
“One of the reasons for these punishments of being chained up to a bed… if the children were found to wash their hands above the wrist area they were accused of playing in the water and they would be chained up,” alleged the DA, adding “the punishments included frequent beatings and even strangulation.”
“All 13 victims, ranging from the age of 2 to 29, were transported to the Perris Station and interviewed. Both parents were detained and transported to the station for further investigation,” reported sheriff’s officials. “Child Protective Services (CPS) and Adult Protective Services (APS) arrived to assist in the investigation. The victims were provided with food and beverages after they claimed to be starving.”
According to the Press-Enterprise, neither parent has a serious criminal history in California. Authorities confirmed that there was no call history to law enforcement to the home before. Social services is now seeking court authorization to have oversight over the care of the children, including the adults if necessary.
A neighbor in Texas told WFAA that the family “were hoarders, and they moved themselves out of the house and moved into a mobile home they had here” when they lived in that state. “She never allowed her children to go outside and play. They homeschooled every one of them and one day they just up and left,” the neighbor told WFAA, adding that she found vents in the closet making her wonder “if the couple’s children were locked in the closet.”
5. A Neighbor Says the Mother Was Smirking & Spitting When Arrested & Prosecutors Are Requesting $13 Million Bail Each
A shocked neighbor told UK Mirror that Louise Turpin “was, like, just coughing, acting a little weird, just, like, kept looking” when the police arrived. “Police officer kept talking and she kept just, like, smirking and, like, kinda, like, she spit twice down at the floor,” alleged the neighbor to the British news site.
In a January 16 news conference, authorities said the mother seemed “perplexed” when deputies arrived. Louise Turpin was captured smiling during the couple’s first court hearing.
Showing how seriously the system is taking this case, the bail for each parent was initially set at $9 million, and authorities are now seeking $13 million bail – each. According to Riverside Sheriff’s jail records, David Turpin is being held on nine felony charges of torture and 10 felony charges of child endangerment.” His wife is accused of the same charges.
“Both parents were interviewed in this matter and subsequently transported to the Robert Presley Detention Center (RPDC). They were booked for violations of California Penal Code Section 206–Torture and Section 273a(A)–Child Endangerment. Bail was set at $9,000,000.00 each,” says the release.
Louise Turpin is from a religious family. Louise’s sister “traveled with ‘Pioneers for Christ’ and ministered internationally,” according to a website for her. It reports that she was raised in West Virginia in a family of six and is an author.
“As a prosecutor there are cases that stick with you that haunt you. Sometimes in this business we are faced with looking at human depravity and that’s what we’re looking at here,” said Hestrin.