Southern California couple sentenced to 25 years to life in Perris child torture case

Children of the Turpins spoke out at the hearing, some sharing love for their parents

The Turpins talk with their attorneys before sentencing at Riverside Superior Court Friday, April 19. (Photo by Brian Rokos, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
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Bringing to a close a trial that shocked the nation, a Riverside County Superior Court judge on Friday sentenced a Perris couple who abused a dozen of their children by shackling to starving them to 25 years to life in prison.

But before the sentenced was handed out, some of the children of David and Louise Turpin took the stand, saying they loved their parents and have overcome their extremely troubled childhoods.

“My parents took my life away from me, but I am taking my life back now,” said one daughter, who is in college. She added that she is “a fighter” and watched her dad change her mom.

“I love both of my parents so much,” a brother said, speaking for a sibling who added she was glad her parents raised her although not the way they were brought up. “I want to thank them for teaching me about God and faith, and I hope they never lose their faith.”

Said another daughter, Joy, though a lawyer: “If at all possible, I would appreciate it if the court would place our parents near the detention center they’re at now so we can visit, and (I) would like the restraining order removed. I feel like 25 years (in prison) is too long. I believe with all my heart my parents tried as hard as they could and tried to give us a good life.”

At least three of the children are now in college.

The judge had ruled that no victims’ faces could be photographed or videotaped during Friday’s sentencing hearing.

David Turpin had his lawyer read a statement for him: “I never intended for any harm to come to my children. I’m sorry if I’ve done anything to cause them harm. I hope and pray my children can stay close to each other since their mother and father cannot be there for them.”

Louise Turpin told the court: “I want them to know that Mom and Dad are going to be OK. I also want them to know I believe God has a special plan for them. I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to hurt my children. I love my children so much.”

David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 50, had been jailed in lieu of $12 million bail each.

The children, now ages 3 to 30, had never appeared in public before, in the wake of their parents’ arrests on Jan. 14, 2018.

The children’s plight came to light when one of the girls, 17 years old at the time, escaped. She got through a window of their six-year-old, four bedroom house, and took a sibling’s deactivated cellphone along with her and and punched in 911. She told a dispatcher that the children were shackled to furniture and starved and didn’t get proper educations. Prosecutors would say the children were cognitively and physically impaired.

Only a daughter, who was 2 at the time of the arrests, was supposedly not neglected or abused.

According to prosecutors, the children were given a diet of peanut butter sandwiches and frozen burritos. Their dad was their homeschool principal and only provided a little more than first-grade educations. If a child took food, he or she might get struck in the head or have their hair pulled, or the child was paddled or even thrown down a flight of stairs.

Punishment for subsequent infractions might get a child locked in a 7-by-5-foot enclosure or a smaller kennel-style container.

The children — whose names all begin with the letter J — had to wear soiled clothes and some could only shower once a year. There was testimony that the abuse had begun when the family lived in Texas, continued when the family moved to Murrieta in 2010 and to Perris in 2014.

Why the couple did all of this remains a mystery.

On Feb. 22, the parents each pleaded guilty to 14 felonies: six counts of dependent adult abuse, four counts of false imprisonment, three counts of child endangerment and one count of torture, setting up Friday’s sentencing. They had faced a collective 88 felonies before cutting the deal.

The Turpins agreed to maximum sentences of 25 years to life, although the judge could have imposed a different term. Under this deal, the Turpins were projected to serve an estimated 22 years, four months before being eligible for parole.

On Friday at the hearing, Elizabeth Flores, Louise Turpin’s sister who wrote the book “Sisters of Secrets,” was in the courtroom. So was Raider, the Corona Police Department’s comfort dog that goes to court hearings to help witnesses and victims.

Before the sentencing, the Turpins chatted busily with their attorneys. Louise Turpin smiled at times. Her husband’s expression ranged from neutral to grim.

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