'The Turpin Thirteen' is a terrifying look into the lives of the Turpin children living in the 'house of horrors'

'The Turpin Thirteen' is a terrifying look into the lives of the Turpin children living in the 'house of horrors'
David and Louise Turpin (Getty Images)

It was a story that you would see only if you went to the cinemas. A daring escape, a terrifying tale of captivity and the horror of an entire nation as to what was discovered inside that house in California. It was truly a House of Horrors for many on the outside looking in but for the 13 children living there, it was a nightmare. The raid made headlines across the world and many people rallied in support of the children after their terrifying ordeal was made public.

The Turpin 13, which is the nickname they have earned themselves now, have garnered massive amounts of support from people across the world who were all horrified to learn that the children were living in terrible conditions. The case was one of alleged child abuse and captivity. Authorities found out about what was going on in the suburban home in Perris, California, and immediately sprang into action to rescue the children. It became a media spectacle and the popular name used by everyone in media outlets was "The California House of Horrors".

The story that broke the Internet revolved around the Turpin family and specifically the alleged abuse that the parents, David and Louise, put their children through. The parents had allegedly kept their own children prisoner for many years and possibly even decades.

Now as Oxygen media waits to release its two-hour special on the Turpin 13, titled "The Turpin 13: Family Secrets Exposed" on Sunday, April 28 at 6 p.m, we take a look at the what led to the discovery of these children and where they are now. 

The Turpin's abuse was found out when one of the children bravely escaped the horror house on January 14, 2018, and contacted the authorities. She crawled out of one of the bathroom windows in the house and just ran for dear life with the only thought in her head to get help for her other siblings. The escape plan was two full years in the making and the girl was supposed to have executed the plan with one of her other siblings who backed out on the day of the escape because she was too afraid.


When the police arrived at the home, they shockingly found everything the escapee said to be true. The other children were found in a room at the family home, cruelly shackled in a dark and terrible smelling room. The couple had tied up the children and allegedly beat and strangled them regularly. The kids were only allowed one meal a day to eat and they were allowed to take a shower only once a year.

The children are all in the age groups of 2 to 29-years-old. At the time of the raid on the Turpin home, seven of the thirteen children were over the age of eighteen. Investigators even said that the children were so malnourished that they looked much younger than their age actually was. The eldest of the thirteen children is a 29-year-old female. She weighed only 82 pounds or 37 kilograms at the time of David and Louise Turpin's arrest. Most of the children did not know basic things about the rest of the world and they had no idea what medicine was at the time.


David and Louise were arrested by the authorities but they pleaded not guilty to all the charges that were laid out against them. There have been many legal charges and court hearings that followed the arrest in January. This particular case has been considered by many as being "extraordinary for numerous reasons" because the alleged abuse was done by two parents to multiple children. Normally in cases such involving child abuse by their own parents, there is only one child victim. Dr. Bernard Gallagher said that this case is one of a kind because "you don't often get cases of children being tortured, where the abuse seems calculated". 

The daring escape

The thirteen children decided to take matters into their own hands when it looked like there was never going to be a respite from living with their dreadful parents. They sat and planned the daring escape for more than two whole years and finally, on January 14, 2018, two of the children left the home through a bathroom window towards the back of the house. One of the children went back to the home because she was afraid but the one who alerted the police, a 17-year-old girl, was determined to get away and get help for her siblings.


The girl had a cell phone with her with which she was able to call 911 even though it was deactivated. The police arrived at the scene where the girl was waiting for them and she showed the responding officers pictures of the home and the filthy conditions that the children were subjected to. The deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, which is the local police department, immediately went to the house.

When they got there, they found the other twelve children shackled to the beds in one of the rooms with chains. One of the children was 22-years-old. The authorities then figured that two of the children were tied up to the beds just moments before the house was stormed. According to the Sheriff's Department, Louise Turpin was apparently "perplexed" when the sheriff's deputies entered the home. The officers also said: "The parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in [the manner that they were]."


The six minors among the thirteen children, who were in the age groups of 2 to 17, were immediately taken to the Riverside County Regional Medical Center and admitted into the pediatrics unit for treatment. The seven adult children were treated at the Corona Regional Medical Center who described them as being small and very evidently malnourished but otherwise stable, relieved that they were out of the house and very friendly. The seven adult children were recovering at the medical center as of late February and the six younger children were being taken care of in two separate foster homes.  


The shocking revelations

David and Louise Turpin were charged on January 18 with twelve counts of torture, twelve counts of false imprisonment, seven counts of abuse on a dependent adult, and six other counts of child abuse. David Turpin received an additional charge of a lewd act on a child under fourteen. If the couple is convicted of all the counts they have been charged with, they will receive 94 years to life behind bars. 


In a very brief hearing that took place on January 24, the prosecutors requested the judge to file a restraining order on the two parents essentially forbidding them from making any contact with their children for three years. The parents are also forbidden from coming within 100 yards or 91 meters of any of their children. They are also not allowed to make any electronic contact with them. Both David and Louise agreed to these terms. The Riverside County District Attorney filed three more charges of child abuse against the couple and one felony assault charge against Louise on February 23. A Felony Settlement Conference took place on March 23 and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 14.

Louise's sister said on January 17 that she had begged her sister to let her see her nieces and nephew, even if it was just through a Skype call, for many years but the couple would not let her. Louise's other sister had also said that she was worried about the weights of the children. Louise's aunt said in an interview: "With the pictures they put on Facebook, you thought they were one big happy family." David Turpin's parents, on the other hand, said that they were "surprised and shocked" at all the allegations being thrown at their son and daughter-in-law. 


The Turpin Thirteen at present

Three months after the news of the rescued Turpin children and the arrest of David and Louise Turpin broke the Internet, Louise's sister, Teresa Robinette along with their half-brother, Billy Lambert, gave an exclusive interview to  In Touch where they spoke about how they are in the process of trying to adopt the youngest six children.

Lambert said: "I want to. I'm at the point where I feel like I can help, so I would like to." He then spoke about how he wanted to talk to lawyers and Child Protective Services soon about the adoption. He said: "I think if we can keep them in the family and help them grow as a kid into an adult that would be great." Robinette then said that they will probably not be able to adopt all the children because of financial limitations.

The woman has five children of her own and said: "Me and my brother Billy were going try to adopt ourselves, just the younger ones, but we knew there was no way we were going to be able to take them on. My main hope is that we can somehow, even if my brother and I are not able to adopt the kids, my main hope is just to be able to see my nieces and nephews as often as possible... That we get to have the relationship with my nieces and nephews that we've been wanting to have with them since the beginning."


According to Lambert, the older children have spoken to him. They are currently living together in California and Lambert has said that they are doing well in spite of the circumstances in which they were introduced to the world. "They said that they were doing a lot better, eating better, and they seem very happy and upbeat. They seem very energetic and happy so them being away from David and Louise right now is a very good thing because I feel like they don't have those restraints that they had before." 

Both Lambert and Robinette will go into more detail on the Turpin family's "House of Horrors" in the two-hour special.


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