RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) – A Perris couple pleaded guilty Friday to imprisoning and torturing 12 of their 13 children over several years.
As part of a deal with prosecutors, 57-year-old David Turpin, and his wife, 50-year-old Louise Turpin, each pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts, including torture, child abuse, false imprisonment and elder abuse, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin announced in a news conference Friday. The couple appeared before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz Friday morning, where they entered their pleas.
They will each be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Their sentencing is scheduled for April
“The 25-to-life sentence is an indeterminate sentence,” Hestrin said. “What that means is that it’s a life sentence. Unless a parole board at some point in the future affirmatively decides that they should be released, they will serve the rest of their lives in prison.”
Hestrin said this was the maximum possible sentence they could receive under California law. He said a major factor in reaching the plea deal was to ensure that the children did not have to testify in a trial. The children could choose to speak at the sentencing.
“This is among the worst, most aggravated child abuse cases that I have ever seen, or been involved in, in my career as a prosecutor,” Hestrin said.
Hestrin disclosed that he met with all 13 Turpin children prior to Friday’s hearing.
“I met with all the victims prior to today, all of them, including the 3-year-old,” Hestrin said. “I was very taken by them, by their optimism, by their hope for their future. They have a zest for life and huge smiles and I’m optimistic for them. And I think that’s how they feel about their future.”
On Jan. 14, 2018, the Turpin children – then aged 2 to 29 – were rescued from the home after one of them, a then 17-year-old girl, escaped through a window and called 911 from a deactivated phone.
Prosecutors say 12 of the 13 children were severely malnourished and punished. Only the youngest girl, now age 3, was healthy. When they were not chained up, they were kept in different rooms. None of the children were allowed to shower more than once a year. The punishments would last for weeks and months at a time. The children were also not allowed to have toys.
The charges relate to behavior going back to at least 2010 and apply to the cities of Murrieta and Perris. However, the abuse appears to have started when the family resided in Fort Worth, Texas, prosecutors with the Riverside County District Attorney’s office said. The family moved to Murrieta in 2010 after living in Texas for 17 years.
The Turpin children were all home-schooled, officials have said. According to the state DOE, the Perris home where the children were rescued from was registered as a private school called Sandcastle Day School. David Turpin was listed as the principal.
One of the older boys took some classes at Mt. San Jacinto College, a community college, but his mother would take him to the campus and wait outside class for him.
The children, whose ages now range from 3 to 30, were in the care of Riverside County Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services staff. Most of them were hospitalized immediately following their rescue. They have since been placed in undisclosed residential facilities, according to officials.
According to legal documents obtained by CBS2, the couple declared bankruptcy while living in Murrieta. The bankruptcy filing indicates David Turpin worked as an engineer for Northrop Grumman in San Diego.
Last month, an auction sale of the Turpin’s “House of Horrors” fell through. The Turpin’s foreclosed on the home following their arrests.