Couple Accused of Holding Their Children Captive Appear in Court

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - A Perris couple accused of holding their 13 children, half of them adults, captive in inhumane conditions and even shackled to furniture were charged today with dozens of felonies, including torture, child abuse and false imprisonment.

David Allen Turpin, 56, and his wife, Louise Ann Turpin, 49, are expected to appear in court Thursday afternoon. They each face up to 94 years to life in prison if convicted, according to District Attorney Mike Hestrin.

The couple were charged with 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse and 12 counts of false imprisonment.

David Turpin was also charged with a single count of lewd act on a child by force or fear. Hestrin would not give details on that count, other than to say he "touched one of the victims in a lewd way using force or fear,'' adding that it was one of the female underage children.

Hestrin said the children were chained up, beaten and even choked as a form of punishment, with the punishment beginning when the family lived in Fort Worth, Texas. The punishments intensified over time, particularly after the family moved to California. He noted that the children were initially bound with ropes, but when the children figured out how to escape from such bondage, the couple switched to chains and padlocks.

David and Louise Turpin
David and Louise Turpin

"These punishments would last for weeks and even months at a time,'' he said, noting that when they children were chained, they often were not released to go to the bathroom.

The family moved to Murrieta in 2010 then to Perris in 2014, he said.

The children were allowed to shower once a year and were fed "very little on a schedule,'' he said. According to Hestrin, if the children washed their hands above the wrist, "they were accused of playing in the water and they were chained up.''

He said the children had not been seen by a doctor in years, and "none of the victims have ever seen a dentist.''

With the exception of the youngest child, a 2-year-old girl, the couple's children were all severely malnourished and showed signs of muscular degradation, according to Hestrin. He noted that the oldest child, a 29-year-old woman, weighs just 82 pounds, while a 12-year-old child is the weight of an average 7-year-old.

Hestrin also said that while the children were allegedly home-schooled, "the children lack a basic knowledge of life. ... Many of the children didn't know what a police officer was.''

"Sometimes in this business we're faced with looking at human depravity, and that's what we're looking at here,'' Hestrin says.

According to Hestrin, the 17-year-old daughter who escaped from the home and managed to call 911 to report the abuse had been plotting the escape with some of her siblings for two years. One of her siblings escaped the home with her but turned back a short time later, he said.

On Wednesday, sheriff's spokesman Deputy Mike Vasquez told City News Service that detectives were taking stock of evidence and ``combing the scene, making sure they cover all the angles'' before submitting the case to the District Attorney's Office.

Their single-story home has been at the center of a media blitz following Monday's revelations about what deputies found when they went into the residence, culminating in the Turpins' arrest on suspicion of committing multiple acts of torture and child abuse.

Each is being held in lieu of $9 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.

"Our deputies described a foul smell in the home. It was extremely dirty, and many of the children were malnourished,'' sheriff's Capt. Greg Fellows told reporters Tuesday. "If you can imagine a 17-year-old appearing to be 10 because of being malnourished, chained to a bed and with injuries associated with that -- I would call that torture.''

The Turpins' 17-year-old daughter escaped the home by jumping through a window shortly before 6 a.m. Sunday, carrying a deactivated mobile phone with which she was able to dial 911, according to Fellows. The girl told dispatchers her 12 siblings were in need of help, and when deputies arrived, she presented them with photographs documenting conditions inside the residence, the captain said.

The photos she provided turned out to be accurate,'' Fellows said.

"They were in conditions that were horrific.''

He said three children were found chained to furniture, evidently to immobilize them. Hestrin said Thursday that the defendants managed to get two of those children -- aged 11 and 14 -- unchained as deputies entered the home, but a 22-year-old was still shackled.

Six of the children are under 18, while the others are adults. Their ages range from 2 to 29.

"The mother was perplexed why were at the residence,'' Fellows recounted, describing what investigators encountered on entering the home in the 100 block of Muir Woods Road. "We have had no prior contacts there regarding allegations of child abuse and neglect. We have no call history to that residence.''

The captain was at a loss to explain why the older children had failed to report alleged abuse in the home earlier. State records show the residence was designated Sandcastle Day School, with David Turpin listed as the principal.

He's a former aerospace engineer with Northrop Grumman, and his wife a homemaker. They have resided in Perris since 2014 and previously lived in Murrieta, as well as Texas.

"I've never felt such a mixture of emotions. I'm seriously so heartbroken for my nieces and nephews,'' Louise Turpin's sister, Teresa Robinette of Knoxville, Tennessee, told NBC News.

According to Robinette, she and her younger brother have been largely estranged from their sister for years, speaking with her via phone but never seeing the family. Robinette said she was speechless on learning of the couple's arrest and the alleged circumstances.

"I can't even say the words to you that I'd like to say to her,'' Robinette said. "I'm hurt. Our life wasn't perfect growing up, but we didn't live like that. And David was raised in a very wealthy home, church. My dad was a preacher when Louise and I were little. I don't know where any of this came from. It's like a bad dream.''

Questions were raised Tuesday regarding religious zealotry, or even cult-like behavior by the parents, but Fellows said the investigation was still in the early stages.

A spokeswoman for the Riverside University Health System said the children are stable and being restored to health gradually. According to Corona Regional Medical Center CEO Mark Uffer, the adults are also receiving expert care.

 "They're comfortable and in a very secure environment,'' Uffer said.

"They've been through a very traumatic ordeal, but they're very friendly, very cooperative and hopeful life will get better for them after this event.''

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