In January 2018, a courageous 17-year-old girl escaped from her family home in Perris, California, leading police to uncover one of the most shocking child abuse cases in recent memory. This is the profoundly disturbing tale of the Turpin family and the severe deprivation inflicted upon their 13 children.

Early Lives of David and Louise Turpin

To understand the events that transpired, it is important to first look at the background of David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin.

David Turpin was born in 1961 in Princeton, West Virginia. He grew up in a highly religious household as one of five children. As a young adult, he attended Virginia Tech for a time before dropping out. He went on to work as an engineer for prominent defence contractors like Lockheed Martin.

Louise Turpin was born in 1968, also in Princeton, West Virginia. She was raised in a devout Baptist family as one of six siblings. Louise and David attended the same church during high school. After graduation, Louise completed training to become a vocational nurse.

The two married in 1985 when David was 24 and Louise was just 16 years old. Their religious upbringings likely influenced both the early marriage and the strict, isolating household they would later run.

Isolation and Control

After marrying, the couple moved to Texas where many of their children were born. David worked as an engineer while Louise gave birth about every year to a total of 13 children – 7 boys and 6 girls born between 1989 and 2010.

The Turpin family largely kept to themselves with minimal interaction with the outside world. David exercised an extreme level of control and enforced rigid rules and punishment within the household. The children were all homeschooled with no organized activities or interaction with other kids.

In 1999 the family relocated to Murrieta, California due to David’s job. A few years later, they moved into a four-bedroom home in nearby Perris, California. Here the shocking abuse would continue behind closed doors for many more years.

Neighbours rarely saw the Turpin children outside playing. But no one realized the full extent of deprivation and torture occurring inside. David Turpin effectively isolated the entire family from community members or oversight.

Escalating Abuse and Deprivation

According to investigations following the children’s rescue in 2018, the shocking abuse by David and Louise Turpin spanned many years. The siblings reported being chained to beds for months at a time, as well as being beaten, choked, and bound with ropes.

The Turpins severely restricted their access to food; the children were literally starving. The parents would buy toys and treats for themselves, intentionally leaving them in view of the children to taunt them. The Turpin offspring were not even permitted to play.

The children also described being kept awake until the early morning hours and allowed only a few hours of sleep. They lacked any basic knowledge of the outside world, with no exposure to life outside their house. Their only activities were writing in journals – a heartbreaking record of their abuse.

The Turpins also refused to allow their children access to the bathroom or to bathe regularly. Other than one annual shower, they were denied any personal hygiene. As a result, the Turpin siblings’ growth was extremely stunted.

The parents’ treatment of their 13 offspring amounted to extreme torture and deprivation under the guise of homeschooling and child-raising.

Daring Escape After Years of Captivity

On January 14, 2018, after more than two years of careful planning, the Turpins’ 17-year-old daughter escaped the home. That morning, she managed to slip through a window of their four-bedroom house. Though emaciated and appearing far younger, she had the courage to seek help for her 12 captive siblings.

Once outside, the brave teenager used an old deactivated cellphone to call 911. In the call, she pleaded for assistance, alerting the operators that her brothers and sisters were still trapped inside the house. This bold escape quite literally saved the lives of the 12 other Turpin children.

Shocking Evidence of Abuse

When police arrived at the middle-class suburban home, they were met with a horrifying scene. Most of the Turpin children were severely underweight and chained to their beds in putrid conditions. The stench from human waste was overpowering.

Investigators described the two rooms where the children were confined as extremely foul-smelling, with trash bags covering the floors. The Turpins collected dead cats and spiders as “pets” for the children. Many of the older siblings were still wearing diapers and could not speak coherently.

It quickly became apparent to law enforcement that the siblings had endured these profoundly shocking living conditions for a very long time. Their survival was deemed nothing short of miraculous given the intensity and duration of abuse and deprivation.

Community Shock and Questions

As details emerged, the Perris community was astonished that such extreme child abuse had persisted largely undetected in their midsts for so long. Some neighbours had occasionally expressed concern about the pale, thin appearance of the Turpin children. But no one knew the true conditions of captivity and torture inside the home.

In hindsight, many questioned if more could have been done to uncover and end the abuse sooner. However, the combination of homeschooling, social isolation, and secrecy cultivated by the Turpins prevented intervention. In the end, only the escape of the 17-year-old daughter led police to rescue the starved, shackled children from their egregious living conditions.

Ongoing Recovery for the Children

Following their emancipation from the Turpin home in January 2018, the long process of physical and mental recovery began for the 13 siblings. They were all hospitalized for severe malnutrition and related medical issues.

The seven adult children were eventually placed in a care facility where they could choose supportive living arrangements. The six minor children were appointed legal guardians and placed with local foster families who could meet their ongoing medical and developmental needs in a safe, nurturing home.

With proper nutrition and freedom, the Turpin children slowly began to thrive. They experienced many firsts – playing games, reading books, and trying new foods and activities. Though their road ahead is long, these small joys represented significant steps forward.

Hospital staff were so inspired by the positive, kind-hearted nature of the siblings, despite their years of mistreatment, that they affectionately dubbed them “The Magnificent 13.”

Conviction of David and Louise Turpin

In February 2019, David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts of torture, adult abuse, child endangerment, and false imprisonment. In April, the couple was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison – effectively a life sentence.

At their sentencing hearing, two of the Turpin daughters gave emotional statements about the continuing effects of the trauma, but also professed love for their parents. The children’s incredible resilience despite unfathomable adversity was a testament to the human spirit.

The outcome provided a measure of justice. However the adult and minor Turpin children still faced intensive efforts to rebuild their lives and gain independence after being so severely restricted for so many years.

Life After Captivity

In the years since their rescue from the Turpin home, all 13 siblings have worked hard to piece their lives back together and forge their own paths forward. Their identities are closely protected to provide privacy. But some details have emerged:

  • Several of the adults have been able to hold jobs and live semi-independently with continued support and services. One son works at Target and likes to fix cars.
  • The younger children remain in foster care or group homes, though they visit their older siblings regularly. Special tutors assist in their education.
  • Some of the siblings find comfort in volunteering at local animal shelters, having formed bonds with pets while trapped at home.
  • Ongoing counselling addresses lingering effects like nightmares, but social workers see general resilience and bonding.

While the road ahead remains long, the Turpin children have shown remarkable courage and grace since escaping captivity. Their future now finally holds promise and hope.

The harrowing story of the Turpin family is one of the most extreme cases of child abuse ever uncovered in recent times. But after many years of utter deprivation, the determination of one teen to break free ultimately freed her captive siblings. Though scarred, the Turpin 13 remain united as they work to rebuild their lives. Their resilience continues to inspire many who learn of their heartbreaking journey.

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