As the children of David and Louise Turpin spoke about taking their life back and the nightmares they still have, a yellow Labrador sat quietly next to them.
The dog, Raider, has been meeting with the siblings ever since their parents were arrested early last year and their lives were turned upside-down. One of the 13 children — who ranged in age from 2 to 29 — managed to escape their filthy home in Perris and called police. Authorities said the siblings had been isolated from the outside world and were often denied showers, medical care and food.
The Turpin children have been able to play with Raider numerous times as they navigated courthouses, prosecutors’ offices and other legal settings in the past year.
“When we see him bring a smile to someone’s face or even just touching him, we know that they are getting emotions out that maybe a human wouldn’t be able to do,” said Corona Police Sgt. Adam Roulston, one of Raider’s handlers.
The 3-year-old Labrador is a facility dog with the Corona Police Department. Unlike other police dogs, he is highly trained to provide companionship without being a disruption in a work environment.
He is the first dog from Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that trains service dogs, to join the Corona police.
Roulston said one of the Turpin children asked authorities to allow Raider to be with them Friday during their parents’ sentencing hearing at the Riverside County Superior Court. They took turns petting him and he sat still by their side when two of them offered testimony about how they suffered at the hands of their parents.
Raider has previously helped the Turpin siblings and other victims reduce their anxiety and and comforted them. He played with them, let them pet him and showed them how he can draw from a deck of playing cards, Roulston said.
Roulston and police dispatcher Erin Lennox have been Raider’s handlers since 2017. They balanced their law enforcement duties with the Labrador’s numerous commitments that include court appearances, hospital visits and supporting witnesses of a crime.
“Seeing the way that he does and seeing how he makes people feel better it’s the best reward ever,” Roulston said. “Officers and public safety personnel want to help people and Raider is a tool to help us do that.”
Raider is among a few police facility dogs in California and is part of the growing trend toward having service animals in courtrooms nationwide. A California law signed in 2017 allows trained therapy dogs to accompany witnesses while testifying.