The Perris couple accused of torturing and starving most of their children — in a case that caught national attention after one of the victims escaped through a window last year — pleaded guilty to charges Friday.
David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty to a total of 14 charges, including a count of torture, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. They are expected to serve an indeterminate sentence of 25 years to life in prison, meaning they will spend the rest of their lives in prison unless granted parole, DA Mike Hestrin told reporters following their court appearance.
They will be formally sentenced on April 19.
Twelve of the couple’s 13 children, who range from 2 to 29 years old, were found severely abused and malnourished, with some shackled to beds and rarely allowed to leave their Riverside County home, according to authorities. They were rescued on Jan. 14, 2018.
Only the youngest, a 2-year-old, did not appear starved and mistreated.
With their parents’ plea deals, the children will be able to avoid further trauma by having to testify in a trial, Hestrin said. The case is particularly sensitive given the scale of media attention it has garnered, he added.
The extent of the abuse was painfully apparent through the emaciated appearance of the children, some of whom were young adults who looked more like small children when they were first removed from their parents’ custody, authorities have said.
“One of the children, at age 12, is the weight of an average 7-year-old,” Hestrin told reporters days after the Turpins’ arrest. “The 29-year-old female victim weighs 82 pounds.”
Despite the conditions faced by most of the Turpin children, the family dogs were kept clean and well-fed, according to prosecutors.
The tortured children suffered cognitive impairment, nerve damage and other results of prolonged physical abuse and starvation that is requiring extensive psychiatric treatment and a gradual transition into normal eating patterns, according to prosecutors and medical professionals.
In the 911 call that led to the siblings’ rescue — obtained by CNN — the 17-year-old who escaped can be heard struggling to tell the operator her home address, saying “I’ve never been out. I don’t go out much.”
“I can’t breathe because of how dirty the house is,” the teen says in the call. “We don’t take baths. I don’t know if we need to go to the doctor.”
The girl later told authorities of being smacked, hit over the head, choked and sexually abused by her father, in addition to the allegations of abuse inflicted upon her 11 siblings.
In the weeks after their rescue, the children were said to be recovering with the assistance of medical professionals. The adult children were in rehabilitative care that included musical therapy, where some learned to play guitar, officials at their hospital told CNN.
About a month before David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty to charges, a lawyer representing seven of their children said they are “not bitter” and trying to heal.
“They really take every day as it is — as a gift,” Jack Osborn, the attorney, said on NBC’s “Today” show. “They want people to know that they are survivors.”
The Turpin parents have each pleaded guilty to one count of torture, three counts of willful child cruelty, four counts of false imprisonment and six counts of cruelty to an adult dependent.
“The plea agreement ensures that the Turpins each admitted to at least one crime for each of the 12 victims,” the DA’s office said in a statement.