RIVERSIDE: A California couple were handed life sentences Friday after admitting to imprisoning and torturing 12 of their 13 children in a grisly “House of Horrors” case that shocked the world.
David Allen Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise Anna Turpin, 50, had pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts — including cruelty, false imprisonment, child abuse and torture of their children aged three to 30 — and will serve at least 25 years before they are eligible for parole.
In an emotionally wrenching hearing, several of the children professed continued love for their parents, who lived in the city of Perris, 70 miles (112 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles.
“I never intended for any harm to come to my children. I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to cause them harm,” David Turpin told the court in the nearby city of Riverside, via a statement read out by his attorney.
The case came to light last year when one of the children, aged 17, escaped through a window from the couple’s home and called the emergency services.
Both Turpins fought back tears throughout the hearing, with Louise visually trembling as two of her own children came into court.
“My parents took my whole life from me, but now I’m taking my life back,” one of the couple’s daughters said, while a son said he still loved his parents and had forgiven them.
According to excerpts of the initial emergency call released during court proceedings, the escaped girl told the dispatcher two of her siblings were chained to beds so tightly that their skin was bruised.
She struggled to tell the operator her home address, saying: “I’ve never been out. I don’t go out much.”
She told responding officers that the house was so dirty she couldn’t breathe and that she and her siblings never took baths.
“They chain us up if we do things we’re not supposed to,” she said. “Sometimes, my sisters wake up and start crying (because of the pain).”
An officer who interviewed the teen after her escape said she was so emaciated that he first thought she was a child.
He said the girl described being forced to sleep 20 hours a day and in the middle of the night eating a combination of lunch and dinner that most often consisted of peanut butter sandwiches, chips and microwaved food.
One of the older children also told investigators that the couple would lock him and his siblings in cages as punishment and beat them with paddles.
Since their rescue, the children have been in the care of child and adult protective services.
The Turpins moved from Texas to California in 2010. Investigators have said it is unclear what prompted the abuse.
Turpin professed his love for the youngsters before the sentence was pronounced, while his wife read her own statement, apologizing to her children and adding: “I only want the best for them. Their happiness is very important to me.”
Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz told the Turpins their children’s lives had been permanently altered, by their “selfish, cruel and inhumane” actions.
They were given credit for an early admission of guilt that spared their children the pain of testifying against them at trial.
Turpin, an aerospace engineer, had registered as the principal of their purported home school program set up through the California Department of Education.
But prosecutors said the enterprise was bogus, and accused Turpin of lying on forms filed with the state.
Sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Campos testified in a preliminary hearing about his interview with the initial escapee, recalling how the girl’s hair was filthy and her skin was caked with dirt.
He said the girl admitted “being scared to death” about fleeing but felt desperate to get out and leapt from an open window.
Campos said the teenager had been planning an escape for two years and was ultimately able to procure a mobile phone discarded by her older brother.
She used it to snap pictures of her younger sisters — all of whom were severely malnourished — chained to beds.
The girl’s only exercise was pacing back and forth in the room she shared with her two younger sisters, according to the deputy.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin said the victims were allowed to shower only once a year.