Louise Turpin, a mother of 13, is accused by prosecutors of being a monster in disguise who systematically abused her many children – with her husband at her side – by denying them food, chaining them to beds, only letting them shower once a year, and a series of other horrific details.
The mother cracked a smile during her first court appearance as she and her husband, David Turpin, appeared to answer torture and abuse charges that could see both parents behind bars for the rest of their natural lives, if convicted. Prosecutors paint a picture of a house of horrors in which the children, ranging in age from 2 to 29, were beaten, strangled, and allowed up only at night. The parents were allegedly so cruel that they would leave apple and pumpkin pies on the counter and buy food to eat themselves while depriving the children.
A picture has also emerged of Louise Anna Turpin, 49, as a woman who convinced friends she was a “super mom” on Facebook while posing for photos at Disneyland and a wedding vow renewal with her brood dressed in matching dresses and clothes. She married her husband at a very young age, and is alleged to have wanted a 14th child.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Parents Are Accused of Starving their Children & Letting Them Do Little But Write in Journals
Prosecutors have painted a profoundly disturbing picture of life inside the home of Louise Turpin and David Allen Turpin in Perris, California. The district attorney, Mike Hestrin, said in a news conference that the alleged abuse was discovered when one of the couple’s 13 children – a 17-year-old girl who was so emaciated that she looked only 10 – staged a daring escape through a window. It was an escape that she had been planning for two years. Another sibling initially accompanied the teen, but turned back out of fear, Hestrin said.
“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.
The teenager called 911 using a deactivated phone she had found inside the home, and then showed authorities photos that allegedly documented what she was telling them about her siblings being held captive in chains inside the residence. When police arrived, Louise and David Turpin allegedly managed to unshackle two children, but a third was still chained to a bed, according to the DA.
“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 parents were arrested, and subsequent investigation uncovered horrific abuse dating back to 2010, when the family lived in Texas, alleged the prosecutor. He said that the parents would not allow the children to do anything but write in journals, which have not yet been released, and that the entire family was nocturnal, emerging only at night. The children were so starved that they suffered from muscle wasting, alleged the DA, and a 29-year-old female weighed only 82 pounds. Some of the 13 Turpin children are adults, but they were still allegedly subjected to the same abuse.
The DA said the Turpins did allow one of the adult children to attend college classes for a time but said Louise Turpin would accompany him and wait outside, another example of the extreme control the parents allegedly exercised over their children. The children also suffered strangulation and beatings, and they were punished when they washed their hands above the wrist, the DA alleged.
2. Louise Is Accused of Smirking When Police Came to the Home & Was Captured Smiling in Court
Louise Turpin has demonstrated an odd demeanor since her arrest. For one, she was captured smiling in court. For another, a neighbor alleged to the news media that Louise was smirking and spitting when she was arrested. Authorities said in a news conference that the mother seemed perplexed when authorities arrived and that the parents could provide no logical reason for why their children were in restraints.
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.
Louise Turpin is a homemaker, according to a bankruptcy filing by Louise and David Turpin. The bankruptcy filing said that, at that time, David Turpin was working as an engineer for a defense contractor and earning $11,000 a month. Authorities acknowledged that, at least at one time, the Turpins were bringing in income. However, Hestrin said the children were even denied toys, had never seen a dentist, and their contact with doctors was limited. Furthermore, although the Turpins ran a day school at their home, it appears that their only pupils were their children, and the DA alleges that the traumatized children are so lacking in life knowledge that they did not even know what a police officer was and had never heard of medication.
The family moved to California after years of living in Texas, where the DA alleges they even lived apart from their children for a time, reappearing to periodically give the children food.
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.”
3. Relatives Say Louise Was a Teenager When She Secretly Eloped at Age 16
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.
Two of the siblings, Teresa Robinette and Billy Lambert, spoke to UK Daily Mail and alleged that David Turpin “kidnapped his tenth-grade sweetheart from her high school and took her on a wild 1,000-mile cross-country trip in a vain bid to elope.”
According to Daily Mail, “He persuaded school employees in Princeton, West Virginia, to release 16-year-old Louise Robinette to him without her parents’ knowledge more than 30 years ago…Teresa revealed how the marriage that for decades seemed so perfect, began in 1984. Her mother Phyllis had allowed 16-year-old Louise to date David even though he was eight years her senior.”
Robinette told Daily Mail that Louise Turpin had indicated she wanted another child, and the family thought the Turpins were well off, commenting, “She has the big house and she has all the cars and she didn’t have to work and she had the expensive clothes and purses and anything she wanted, so we thought she was living the high life.”
James and Betty Turpin, the parents of David Turpin, 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.
4. Neighbors Called the Family Vampires Who Lived in Disturbing Conditions But Friends on Facebook Praised Louise’s Parenting
One of the many bizarre aspects of the case: Authorities say the family stayed up all night and slept all day. Some neighbors had noticed this, and they thought it was strange. 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.”
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.
On Facebook, where she shared a page with David Turpin, Louise painted a picture of a super mom in a loving marriage. The page was filled with group photos of the children, especially at Disneyland. Disney comes up as a reoccurring motif in the lives of the family.
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.
5. Louise Turpin Renewed Her Wedding Vows With Her Husband Three Times
Louise and David Turpin renewed their wedding vows at least three times. 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.”