US ′house of horrors′ parents who starved, shackled children sentenced to life | News | DW | 19.04.2019
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US 'house of horrors' parents who starved, shackled children sentenced to life

David and Louise Turpin have been handed life sentences for torturing 12 of their 13 children in a case that shocked the country. Investigators say the children were severely undereducated and malnourished.

A Californian mother and father on Friday were sentenced to life in prison for imprisoning and torturing 12 of their 13 children in what investigators called a "house of horrors."

David Allen Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise Anna Turpin, 50, plead guilty to 14 felony counts, including cruelty, false imprisonment, child abuse and torture of their children, who range in age from three to 30.

They will serve at least 25 years before they are eligible for parole.

The case came to light last year when one of the children, a 17-year-old girl, escaped through a window from the couple's home and called the emergency services.

David and Louise Turpin shed tears in court as their children described the abuse they had suffered.

"I'm sorry for everything I've done to hurt my children. I love my children so much," Louise Turpin said.

"I never intended for any harm to come to my children. I'm sorry if I've done anything to cause them harm," David Turpin told the court via a statement read out by his attorney.

Children functioning 'in spite of' their parents

Judge Bernard Schwarz told the parents that the lives of the children "have been permanently altered in their ability to learn, grow and thrive. You have delayed their mental, physical and emotional health. To the extent that they do thrive ... it'll be not because of you both but in spite of you both." 

Regarding the sentence, the judge specified that the two defendants were given credit only because it prevented their children from having to testify against their parents at trial. "The only reason that your punishment is less than the maximum time in my opinion is because you accepted responsibility at an early stage in the proceedings to spare your children from having to relive the humiliation and the harm they endured in that house of horrors."

Beaten, caged and shackled

The Turpins' home, situated in a middle-class section of Perris, a small city about 96 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Los Angeles, appeared to be neatly kept, and while neighbors rarely saw the kids outside, nothing raised suspicion.

When the police arrived, they were shocked to find a 22-year-old son chained to a bed and two girls who had just been set free from shackles.

Most of the children were severely underweight and had not bathed for months. The house was covered in filth and filled with the stench of human waste.

The children told authorities they were beaten, caged and shackled if they did not obey their parents.

The officer the girl spoke to said she described being forced to sleep 20 hours a day and that they were only given one meal in the middle of the night — a combination of lunch and dinner that was mostly peanut butter sandwiches, chips and microwaved food.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin said the victims were only allowed to shower once a year. They lacked basic understanding of many everyday concepts, did not know what month it was, and could not provide their address.

'My parents took my whole life'

Before the sentencing, some of the children shared their first public statements, which ranged from words of love and forgiveness for their parents to the abuses they had suffered. None of the children were publicly identified.

"My parents took my whole life from me, but now I'm taking my life back," one of the couple's daughters said, while a son said he still loved his parents and had forgiven them.

David Turpin had been an engineer for Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Louise Turpin was listed as a housewife in a 2011 bankruptcy filing.

Turpin had registered as the principal of their supposed home school program set up through the California Department of Education. But prosecutors said the enterprise was bogus, and accused Turpin of lying on forms filed with the state.   

law/kl (AP, AFP)

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