Parents get 25 years to life as children speak publicly about abuse

Posted at 10:58 AM, Apr 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-21 10:58:34-04

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The couple who admitted to the torture and abuse of the majority of their 13 children who were held captive in a "house of horrors" in Southern California have been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison during an emotional court hearing Friday.

Louise Turpin and David Turpin are seen crying in court during their sentencing hearing on April 19, 2019. (Credit: Pool)

David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 50, wept openly before the sentencing, wiping their eyes with tissues as some of their children spoke publicly for the first time about their ordeal. The victims discussed how they suffered at the hands of their parents, but also talked of their love for them regardless.

“My parents took my whole life from me but now I'm taking my life back,” one of the daughters said. “I’m a fighter and I’m strong.”

A son told the Riverside court, "I cannot describe in words what we went through growing up. Sometimes I still have nightmares of things that happened, such as my siblings being chained up or getting beaten."

Nevertheless, he said he was doing well today and is in college working toward a software engineering degree and said he still loved his parents.

Another daughter recalled how the Perris couple, particularly her mother, became overwhelmed as the children grew older.

"I remember our mother sitting in her recliner and crying, saying she don't know what to do," the child wrote in a statement that was read in court. "She didn't want to use rope or chain, but she was afraid her children were taking in too much sugar and coffee.”

Some of the victims also expressed forgiveness to their parents.

David Turpin and Louise Turpin are seen appearing in court for their sentencing on April 19, 2019. (Credit: Pool)

One told the court that “they believed everything they did was to protect us,” and asked the judge for a lighter sentence.

After listening to her children speak, Louise Turpin read her own statement in court, crying as she apologized for inflicting years of abuse.

"I'm sorry for everything I've done to hurt my children. I love my children so much," she said through tears. "I only want the best for them. Their happiness is very important to me."

David Turpin's statement had to be partially read by his attorney after he became overwhelmed with emotion early on while delivering it to the court.

"My homeschooling and discipline had good intentions," he said. "I'm sorry if I've done anything to cause them harm."

The Turpins pleaded guilty to 14 counts, including torture and child cruelty charges, back in February as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

In sentencing the couple, Judge Bernard Schwartz called their actions "selfish, cruel and inhumane."

An image obtained by CNN shows the Turpin family in matching T-shirts like characters "The Cat in the Hat."

Hestrin noted the sentence was also the maximum punishment the defendants could have received.

The couple pleaded guilty to counts including torture, false imprisonment, cruelty to an adult dependent and willful child cruelty. In exchange, they agreed to the maximum possible punishment.

The charged stemmed from a case of horrific abuse that was only discovered when the couple's 17-year-old daughter made a daring escape from the family's home in the 100 block of Muir Woods Road in January 2018, using a deactivated cellphone to dial 911 for help, authorities said.

The Perris home where the Turpin family lived is shown on Jan. 15, 2018. (Credit: KTLA)

In the chilling call, a portion of which was played in court last year, the 17-year-old told the dispatcher that she and her siblings were being abused by their parents, and that some of her siblings were chained up.

"My parents are abusive. They abuse and my two little sisters right now are chained up," she said in the call, according to a recording that was obtained by ABC News and released Thursday. She said one of her brothers was also tied up.

When sheriff's deputies arrived at the single-story house, they were stunned at what they discovered.

Some of the girl's 12 siblings -- whose ages ranged from 2 to 29 years at the time -- were shackled to beds. The children appeared emaciated and filthy; their surroundings were described as "dark and foul-smelling."

The teen relayed the deplorable conditions she and her siblings were being held in, noting it was difficult to breathe amid the squalor.

"I can't breathe because of how dirty the house is," the girl said. "We don't take baths. I don't know if we need to go to the doctor."

This photo was posted to a Facebook page for "David-Louise Turpin" on July 10, 2016.

She struggled to recall her own address, explaining that she rarely got out of the house. The daughter later told authorities she had been hit, choked and sexually abused by her father.

The children reported being beaten and starved, subsisting on meager jalapeno baloney sandwiches while the parents feasted on things like Jersey Mike's, pizza and fries, a deputy testified.

Nearly all of the children were found to be severely malnourished; some of the older ones were so emaciated, first responders didn't realize initially that they were adults, according to authorities.

Only the youngest child, who was 2 at the time, did not appear starved and mistreated.

The plea agreement reached in the case ensured that each parent admitted to at least one count per child, prosecutors said in February.

It also spared the victims the pain of having to testify at a trial, ensuring they didn't relive the horror all over again. Jack Osborn, an attorney representing the adult Turpin children, told NBC's "Today" before the parents pleaded guilty that none of the victims were looking forward to that prospect.

Hestrin cited that consideration as part of the reason a deal was reached.

“We needed to determine whether proceeding to trial was worth having the victims testify in this case that has
received worldwide media attention,” he said in February. “We decided that the victims have endured enough torture and abuse."

"I personally met with the victims and, rest assured, they all are relieved to know this case has been resolved," Hestrin added.