A Perris couple who kept 12 of their 13 children imprisoned in their home, allowing them to shower just once a year, feeding them sparse amounts of food that left them emaciated and chaining them to furniture as punishment, pleaded guilty Friday to torture and other charges.
Under the plea agreement, David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Ann Turpin, 50, will be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said. The pair each pleaded guilty to 14 counts, including torture, dependent adult abuse, child endangerment and false imprisonment.
Sentencing was scheduled for April 19 before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz.
Hestrin said that while he was committed to getting convictions in the case against the Turpins, he was pleased the plea agreement will resolve the charges without need for the couple’s children to testify at a trial.
“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 told reporters following the court hearing. “And so part of what went into the decision-making on this agreement and this sentence is that the victims in this case would not ultimately have to testify.”
Hestrin said he spoke with all of the couple’s children prior to Friday morning’s court hearing. He declined to provide specifics of those talks, but said they universally were relieved that they would not have to testify in court against their parents.
Hestrin noted that under a state law that took effect last year, the Turpins — because of their ages — would have been eligible for a parole hearing in 25 years regardless of what sentence they had received if they had gone to trial and been convicted. He said that given the law, the plea deal ensures that the Turpins will be sentenced to “the maximum they could get under California law.”
The couple were arrested after their then-17-year-old daughter, Jordan, escaped the family’s Muir Woods Road residence on Jan. 14, 2018, and told a 911 dispatcher that her two younger sisters were “chained up to their beds,” shackled so tightly their bodies were bruised, according to testimony from the defendants’ preliminary hearing last June.
“They chain us up if we do things we’re not supposed to,” the girl said in a conversation with a 911 dispatcher, played in court. “Sometimes, my sisters wake up and start crying (because of the pain).”
Along with the 911 recording, the prosecution called sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Campos to testify regarding his Jan. 14 interview with the victim.
Campos recalled Jordan’s hair was filthy and her skin was caked with dirt. He said that the girl admitted “being scared to death” about fleeing her home, but felt desperate to get out and leapt from an open window.
Campos testified the teenager had been planning an escape for two years and was ultimately able to procure a mobile phone discarded by her older brother. She used it to snap pictures of her younger sisters chained to beds.
The lawman said the victim told him her sisters had been shackled because they were caught by Louise Turpin snatching candy from the kitchen.
According to the witness, the girl described a compulsory sleep schedule of 20 hours a day and a middle-of-the-night meal — combination “lunch and dinner” — that consisted of peanut butter sandwiches, chips and microwave-heated burritos.
The girl’s only exercise was pacing back and forth in the room she shared with her two younger sisters, according to the deputy.
He said the filth and stench in the bedroom was so overwhelming that the teen told him she often couldn’t breathe and had to stick her head out the window for relief.
Hestrin said the victims were allowed to shower only once a year.
The siblings were virtually imprisoned, according to testimony, and the only time they were free to leave their assigned quarters was when both parents were out of the house.
D.A.’s office Investigator Wade Walsvick testified that all but one of the victims were severely malnourished.
Walsvick testified that when he spoke to the oldest son, 26-year-old Joshua Turpin, the victim revealed how he and his siblings were locked inside cages if their parents became angry with them. There were alleged beatings with paddles, “hitting on the face, slapping, pushing and being thrown across the room or to the ground,” the witness said.
The children, whose ages ranged from 3 to 30, are in the care of county Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services staff. Most of them were hospitalized in January of last year for treatment, but they have since been released and placed in undisclosed residential facilities, according to county officials.
Only the now-3-year-old girl appeared to be in good health.