13 children found held captive by parents


Emily S. '19, Writer

On Jan. 14, police discovered and saved 13 children who were being held captive by their parents in their own home. The children ranged in ages between two and 29. According to police, all were severely malnourished other than the youngest child. Their situation started as neglect, but quickly morphed into child abuse.

The 13 children of David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin were found after one of their daughters, who is 17-years-old, escaped and used a phone to contact police. The family moved to Murrieta, Calif. in 2010, then moved to their current house in Perris, Calif. in 2015. Before moving to California, the family lived in Texas. 

Riverside County, California, where Perris is located.

According to Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin, 12 counts of torture, 12 counts of false imprisonment, seven counts of abuse to a dependent adult and six counts of child abuse or neglect have been charged against both parents. Also, one count of a lude act on a child by force, fear or distress has been filed against the father. Each parent is being held at a $13 million bail, or $1 million for each child.

The dates of the accusations rage from 2010 to the present and have been said to have occured in Riverside County, Calif. If the parents are found guilty, they will face 94 years to life in prison.

“We are fully prepared to seek justice in this case, and do so in a way that will protect these victims from further harm,” Hestrin said in a press conference on Jan. 18.

In the home, the children were punished by being tied up. They were first tied with ropes, and sometimes were hogtied. Once they were able to escape the ropes, the parents used chains and padlocks to keep their children in their beds. These punishments would last for weeks or months at a time. Evidence found in the house suggests the children were not released from the chains to use the bathroom. Three children were chained when the police came to the house. Other punishments included frequent beatings and strangulation.

The 17-year-old who escaped had been working on a plan to run away for over two years. She and one of her siblings escaped through a window. The other sibling eventually turned back out of fear.

The abuse began when the family lived in Texas. The parents lived apart from the children and would bring them food periodically.

After being examined by doctors, it was determined the children were severely malnourished. The parents would buy food for themselves and leave food out on the counter for the children to look at, but would not allow them to eat any of it.

“To give you an example, one of the children at age 12 is the weight of an average 7-year-old. The 29-year-old female victim weighs 82 pounds,” Hestrin said.

Several of the victims suffer from cognitive impairment and neuropathy, which is a type of nerve damage which results from extreme and prolonged physical abuse.

The children were not allowed to shower more than once a year. If they washed their hands above the wrist, they were accused of playing in the water and were punished.

The children were also not allowed to have toys, however many toys were found in the house in their original packaging.

They were said to be homeschooled, but lacked basic knowledge of society. Hestrin said they did not know what a police officer was. When the 17-year-old who escaped was asked if there were pills or medication in the house, she did not know how to answer.

“I can’t imagine being so sheltered from the world my whole life, then just being thrust into it like these kids are. It really makes you think about what’s going on behind closed doors,” sophomore Aneesha R. said.

One of the only things the children were allowed to do in their rooms was write in journals. Thousands of journals were found in the house and they are being searched through for evidence.

“It’s a very complex case. It’s important that we gather and analyze this evidence. Based on the information I’ve shared with you today, it’s my hope that the members of the public will come forward with any information about this family or these crimes that could aid us in this ongoing investigation and case,” Hestrin said to close the press conference.