RIVERSIDE, California. – The eldest son and daughter of a couple who starved and shackled 12 of their children for the first time on Friday alternately chastised and sentenced their parents before a judge sentenced the couple to jail.
Ever since they were released from their prison-like home more than a year ago, David's and Louise Turpin's two grown children described how they had taken control of their lives, and although they were poorly educated at home, they were now in college enrolled and just learned things like cycling, swimming and preparing a meal. They are still thin from years of malnutrition.
"I can not describe in words what we went through," said the eldest son, 27 years old. "Sometimes I still have nightmares when something happens, like when my siblings are chained or beaten, but that's the past and that's now, I love my parents and forgive them many things they did to us."
The hearing put an end to a shocking case that went unnoticed until a 17-year-old girl fled the house in January 2018 and called 911. The investigators discovered a house of horror hiding behind a veneer of normal suburbs.
The children between the ages of 2 and 29 were confined to beds, had to live in misery, were fed only once a day, showered only once a year and had no toys and no toys. They slept during the day and were active for a few hours at night.
While her children were speaking from a lectern, 50-year-old Louise Turpin sobbed and dabbed her eyes with handkerchiefs.
"I'm sorry for everything I've done to hurt my kids," she said. "I love my kids so much."
Her husband, who was shaking and initially unable to read from a written statement, had his lawyer speak for him until he recovered. He did not apologize for the abuse, but wished his children were well with their education and future career, and hoped that they would visit him. Then he started to sob.
Jack Osborn, a lawyer representing the seven adult Turpin children, said they understand the consequences of their parents' actions and work hard to forgive them. Some plan to speak with their parents later, others do not want to talk to them for 10 years.
The one who called the police was a hero for the liberation of their siblings, Osborn said.
"Maybe, but we would not be here today," he said.
The 25-year sentence with no chance of parole was no surprise. It had been agreed when the couple pleaded guilty to 14 counts in February, including torture, cruelty and false imprisonment.
The courtroom quieted when the oldest, now 30, entered with a blue cardigan over a white shirt and a dark ponytail. Her eyes were already red with crying as she started to speak in the voice of a little girl.
"My parents have taken my whole life, but now I'm taking my life back," she said as her mother's lower lip trembled as she tried to hold back the tears. "Life was maybe bad, but it made me strong. I struggled to become the person I am. I saw my dad changing my mom. They almost changed me, but I realized what was going on. I immediately did what I could to avoid becoming like her. "
There was no explanation from the parents or lawyers as to why the abuse had taken place, but a letter from one of the lawyers read by a lawyer pointed to a domestic life that resulted in severe punishment and rioting from birthday parties and trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas.
"Over the years, things have become more and more overwhelming, but they still trust God," the girl wrote. "I remember our mother sitting in her chair weeping and saying she did not know what to do."
She said her parents did not know that the children were malnourished because they thought the children had inherited a gene from their mother, who was small.
From the outside, the house seemed to be neat in a middle-class neighborhood of Perris, a small town about ninety-six miles southeast of Los Angeles, and neighbors rarely saw the children outside, but nothing aroused suspicion.
But when the MPs arrived, they were shocked to find a 22-year-old son chained to a bed and two girls who had just been released from bondage. All but one of the 13 children were severely underweight and had not been bathing for months. The house was filled with stink of human waste.
The children said they were beaten, locked up and handcuffed if they disobeyed their parents. The investigators came to the conclusion that the couple's youngest child, a toddler, was the only one who was not abused.
David Turpin, 57, was an engineer with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Louise Turpin was a housewife in 2011 in a bankruptcy filing.
The escaped daughter jumped out of a window. After a life-long isolation, the 17-year-old knew neither her address nor the month of the year or what the word "medication" means.
But she knew enough to beat 911 into a barely functioning cell phone and began describing years of mistreatment to a police officer.
Although the couple submitted papers to the state to teach their children, learning was limited. The eldest daughter completed only the third grade.
Regarding the shackles, the eldest daughter said that her mother "did not want to use a rope or a chain, but she was afraid that her children would eat too much sugar and caffeine."
Life became more difficult when her mother's parents died in 2016.
Her parents tried their best, "and they wanted to give us a good life," she said. "They believed everything they did to protect us."
Associated Press authors Amanda Lee Myers and Michael R. Blood of Los Angeles contributed to the report.
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