The Turpin Family- what has been reported so far

April 02, 2022

Ever since the Generation Why blog has been active, we’ve explored our fair share of harrowing true crime tales of kidnapping and imprisonment. Most recently, we explored the case of Aloisio Francesco Rosario Giordano, known by his media moniker “the Italian Josef Fritzl”. Giordano kept a Romanian woman locked up for an entire decade in a foul smelling basement, void of water and electricity, where he routinely raped and tortured her and forced her to give birth to two of his children. Since she was shackled to a pole cemented in the ground, she had no hope of escaping and was rescued only by chance when an officer on a routine traffic stop noticed how dirty and unkempt Giordano’s son was and performed a welfare check on the home.

Today we have yet another shocking case of imprisonment, this time coming out of Perris, California.

In January 2018, the Riverside police received a phone call from what they believed to be a child who had escaped a basement prison in her family home. She claimed to have been held captive at the residence for her entire life and had escaped by jumping out of a window. She and her younger sister had been planning their escape for two years, but she was forced to leave her sister behind when the girl panicked and was too terrified to leave.

When officers at the sheriff’s department first set eyes on the girl, they were convinced that she was a child no more than 10 years of age, but in actuality, the victim standing before them was a severely malnourished and emaciated 17 year old.

During her escape, she had taken a disconnected cell phone and showed officers a series of pictures to back up her claims. When police made their way into the residence from which the teenager had escaped, they were appalled at the squalid conditions the girl had been forced to live in.

They walked cautiously into a dark cellar that emitted a foul stench; no doubt they gagged as the atmosphere of the makeshift prison assaulted their senses. The stench of urine probably made their eyes water.

If the story ended here, it would be bad enough, but unbelievably, local authorities found that there was not just one person being held captive, but staggeringly, 13, consisting of 10 females and 3 males. One older child was chained to a bed and the other children were in restraints that they were helping each other escape from when police arrived. When approached by police, they were said to have pleaded for food.

All of the remaining children (except a 2 year old girl who was not malnourished) were either chained up or in the process of attempting to escape and all 13 of them were thought to be the biological children of the home owners; a 57 year old West Virginia native, Mr. David Allen Turpin and his 49 year old wife, Mrs. Louise Anna Turpin. David Turpin is said to be an engineer and Louise Turpin is said to be a housewife. David Turpin is described by those who know him as a “model Christian” and allegedly said that the couple kept having kids because "that’s what God wanted" of him.

A recent report alleges that Mr. Turpin kidnapped Louise when she was just 16 years old and drove her across state lines in order to marry her. He was said to have convinced staff at the school she attended to sign her out. He was 24 years of age at the time.

The family has been described as hermits in the media and, although the Turpin children were forcibly house-bound, social media accounts do host images of the family of 15 on day trips to Disneyland and at an Elvis themed wedding ceremony in Las Vegas where their parents are said to have renewed their vows. They seemed to have taken numerous trips to Disneyland until they eventually filed for bankruptcy.

On the day that the 17 year old escaped captivity, Mr. and Mrs. Turpin were said to have bid their shackled kids farewell, as well as the neighbors, stating that they were going out of town. The details of this trip have not been revealed.

The victims ranged from 2 to 29 years old. Seven of them are reported to be adults. The oldest victim was said to weigh a shocking 81 lbs at 29 years of age. Several of them had been locked away and isolated for so many years that when police officers showed up, they had no concept of what a police officer even was. The kids were thought to have been born in hospitals, but received no medical or dental care during their imprisonment. 

All of the Turpin's offspring appeared to be physically younger than they actually were, and although they were all alive, it was evident just by looking at them that they had consumed nowhere near enough food to develop at a healthy, normal rate, and that their physical and mental growth had been dramatically stunted. So starved were they, that some of them displayed evidence of muscle wastage. Later interviews with the 13 Turpin children would reveal that they were only permitted to eat one meal per day and, astonishingly, could only take one shower per year. Several of the victims had very low mental ages.

The restraints were used on the children as a form of punishment that saw them chained or tied up for extended periods of time, often months. The kids had originally worked out how to escape being hogtied with ropes, and as a result Mr. and Mrs. Turpin upgraded the restraints to chains, making freedom a distant dream. The Turpin kids would be shackled for weeks on end and forced to live in their own filth. And their crimes? Washing their hands above the wrist. An action that The Turpin parents forbid and referred to as "playing" which the children were not allowed to do. 

The punishment and abuse didn't stop there. The Turpins would often beat and strangle their “misbehaving offspring”. The couple enforced an abusive regime centered on control and punishment. Natural needs such as eating, drinking, basic sanitation, enrichment and the love children require from their parents was cruelly withheld in a sickening abuse of human rights.

Investigating officers were baffled and at a loss attempting to figure out the motive behind Mr. and Mrs. Turpin’s reasons to imprison their own children in such disgusting conditions.

Two Maltese mix dogs were also found in the home. Unlike the children, the dogs appeared to be in good health, likely enjoying a better life than the Turpin couple's own flesh and blood. The animals have been re-homed.

When various reporters did their rounds of the local area, the neighbors had varying accounts of the Turpin family. In this report, a neighbor admits that they were not even aware of the presence of children in Turpin home. They did, however, recall an occasion where they may have seen the Turpin kids setting up a nativity scene around October and complimented them on it. The neighbor said that they didn’t feel strange about the encounter, but remembered that the children and their mother (who was watching) did not respond.

After the story broke out on the news, those in the local community admitted to feeling incredibly guilty for not knowing what was going on in the Turpin home.

A factor that likely aided in David and Louise’s success in hiding their 13 children from the world outside of the walls was the hours they kept. They slept all day long, usually going to sleep around 5AM, and were awake all night. So sheltered and isolated were the children that they had little idea of what went on in the outside world. The only activity they were permitted to partake in was journaling. Over the years of imprisonment the kids filled hundreds up of journals. The books will give an insight into what the children’s existence was like and will likely be used as evidence in court.

When authorities did a check on the Turpin’s home address they discovered that it was registered as “The sandcastle day school” of which David Turpin had awarded himself the role of principle. The imprisonment of the 13 kids was likely made easier by the fact that their home was registered as a private school which opened up a whole other discussion on just exactly how simple it is to register your home as a school in the state of California. An article in the Independent states that the California Department of Education does not in generally inspect the overall running of privately registered schools.

The Turpin children were subjected to strict treatment and, tragically, not being allowed to have friends over or watch TV was only the tip of the iceberg. With only one shower per year they were, of course, filthy. Scratches on the doors and feces stained carpets provided a glimpse into how desperately the brothers and sisters wanted to escape and how neglected and abused they were.

They were deliberately starved and were not permitted to eat any of the food that Mr. and Mrs. Turpin purchased for themselves. Apparently, they would often leave pastries and pies out in the open for the emaciated children to stare at desperately, but not allow them to eat. This was only one aspect of the prolonged and relentless abuse as, despite there being unopened toys in the family home, the children were deprived of them. They were not permitted to use the bathroom. They were not allowed to bathe and if caught washing any part of their body other than their hands they would be bound or chained up to punish them further. Devastatingly, one of the children allegedly suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their father, David Turpin, who along with being charged with false imprisonment, various counts of torture and child and dependent adult abuse, was also charged with a count of performing a lewd act on a child under age 14.

The children’s aunt revealed in an interview that despite attempting to see her nieces and nephews for two decades was never permitted to. No matter how many times she tried to visit them, she was unable to penetrate the fortress of secrecy that the Turpins had built around their private life.


Disturbingly, the aunt recalled a time when she was younger, where her brother-in-law, David Turpin, insisted on watching her every time she showered. She said at the time she was very young and the whole strange routine was played off as some kind of joke. She was living with the Turpins, and did so for a few months and felt as though she was one of the children. She admitted to good morning America that Mr. Turpin did not sexually abuse her physically; however she did admit that she was afraid of him.

The Turpins previously lived in a remote area south of Fort Worth, Texas from 1990 - 1999. At the time they had eight children that neighbors hardly ever saw leave the family home and an article in the LA times states that the Turpin children played with the neighbors children on a couple of occasions, but stopped under orders of David and Louise. The kids would not share their names and eventually stopped talking.

In this interview, one neighbor admitted that she referred to their home as “the compound” and believed the property to be a religious compound.

When the Turpins eventually relocated, they left their property in a shocking state. Apparently, the floor of the bathroom was practically rotted through and among trash and various dead pets; a Polaroid picture of a bed with a metal chain was discovered. There were padlocks and chains on the fridge and toy box, indicating that the Turpin children had been deprived back in Texas as well as in their new 2010 home in Perris.  Numerous empty cans that once contained Vienna sausages painted a picture of diet without variation. The children were described by neighbors as pale and underweight. One of the Turpin kids managed to escape the Texas home at one point, but was sadly returned to the house of horrors. It seems that they were also home schooled throughout the 90’s too, as they left behind a room that appeared to be used for teaching.

Louise Turpin has a step-brother who, in an interview with the Mirror newspaper (UK), revealed that David and Louise originally relocated the California in order to pursue their dream of being rich and famous. He said they aimed for their large family to be eventually have their own reality TV show, and that they would be more successful than existing reality shows such as “Kate plus 8”, a show following the life of a mother who gave birth to twins and sextuplets.  The Turpins planned to keep on procreating to add to their clan of 13, all to fuel their chances of getting their own show. All of the children are said to have names beginning with the letter “J”.

Police are currently considering taking cadaver dogs around the Turpins home in Perris, fearing that there may have been deaths during their time there. They will also have the children's DNA tested.


The Turpins could face up to 94 years in prison for their crimes.

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