US & Canada

Turpin trial: Couple jailed for life for 'inhuman' child abuse

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Media captionOne of the couple's children reads a statement during the sentencing

A couple from the US state of California have been sentenced to life in prison for starving and torturing all but one of their 13 children.

David and Louise Turpin were arrested in January 2018 when their 17-year-old daughter escaped their home in the city of Perris and raised the alarm.

The children had been abused for at least nine years and some were found chained up in filthy conditions.

But several of the children told the court they had forgiven their parents.

The couple are expected to serve the rest of their lives behind bars, unless they are granted parole in 25 years.

Image copyright David-Louise Turpin/Facebook
Image caption The couple's Facebook page contained numerous family photos

What did their children say?

The Turpins wept as they heard victim-impact statements from four of their children at Friday's hearing.

One child recounted being haunted by the ordeal.

I cannot describe in words what we went through growing up," said his statement.

"Sometimes I still have nightmares of things that had happened such as my siblings being chained up or getting beaten.

"That is the past and this is now.

"I love my parents and have forgiven them for a lot of the things they did to us."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption David Turpin broke down as he learned his fate

Another child, in a statement read by her brother, also forgave her parents for the abuse.

"I love both of my parents so much," she said.

"Although it may not have been the best way of raising us, I am glad that they did because it made me the person I am today."

But not all the children were so conciliatory.

One daughter, who was visibly shaking, said: "My parents took my whole life from me, but now I'm taking my life back.

"I'm a fighter, I'm strong and I'm shooting through life like a rocket."

She added: "I saw my dad change my mom. They almost changed me, but I realised what was happening."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Louise Turpin occasionally smiled during Friday's sentencing

What did the parents say?

David and Louise Turpin cried as they apologised for the treatment of their children.

The 57-year-old father's lawyer read a prepared statement on his behalf, saying: "My home schooling and discipline had good intentions.

"I never intended for any harm to come to my children. I love my children and I believe my children love me."

He was an engineer for major US defence contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption David and Louise Turpin have agreed to lengthy prison terms after pleading guilty to torture, child abuse and false imprisonment

Speaking directly to the court, housewife Louise Turpin, 50, said she was "truly sorry" for what she had done.

"I love my children so much," she said. "I really look forward to the day I can see them, hug them and tell them I'm sorry."

What did the judge say?

The couple sat stony-faced as the judge rebuked them for their "selfish, cruel and inhuman treatment".

Judge Bernard Schwartz said: "You have severed the ability to interact and raise your children that you have created and brought into this world.

Image copyright facebook
Image caption The Turpin family with an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas, where the parents renewed their vows

"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 proceeding.

"And you spared your children having to relive the humiliation and the harm they endured in that house of horrors."

What did the children endure?

The tidy exterior of the middle-class family home 70 miles (112km) south of Los Angeles offered a veneer of respectability that masked the squalor and stench of human waste found by authorities within.

The children, between the ages of two to 29 at the time of the police raid, were severely malnourished.

A 22-year-old son was discovered chained to a bed. His two sisters had just been released from shackles.

The victims were forbidden to shower more than once a year, were unable to use the toilet and none of them had ever seen a dentist.

Image copyright DAVID-LOUISE TURPIN/FACEBOOK
Image caption The Turpins on a family trip to Disneyland - it was apparently a favourite destination

Some of the adult siblings' growth had been so severely stunted by starvation that authorities at first mistook them for children.

Newly released audio of their daughter's call to 911, obtained by ABC, provides a hint of the conditions in which the children lived.

"Two of my sisters and one of my brothers... they're chained up to their bed", the 17-year-old girl, who did not know her own address, told the emergency operator.

"Sometimes I wake up and I can't breathe because how dirty the house is."

The girl was also unaware of the year or month, or the meaning of the word "medication".

The children - whose names all begin with the letter J - were kept indoors, but were allowed out for Halloween, or on family trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas.

About 20 people from across the country, including nurses and psychologists, have offered to care for the seven adult siblings and six children.

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