The ongoing case of the Southern California couple who allegedly held their 13 children captive has been dubbed “House of Horrors” by news organizations such as CBS, Fox News, and Daily News. The parents, David and Louise Turpin, have been charged with multiple counts of torture, child abuse, and false imprisonment. David Turpin has also been charged with one count of a lewd act on a child aged 14 or younger.
On Sunday Jan. 14, one of the imprisoned children, a 17-year-old girl, escaped the house and called 911 using a deactivated cell phone. Responding officers found three children handcuffed to furniture, as well as ten additional children cramped in foul-smelling rooms. Although said to be homeschooled, the children appeared to lack basic knowledge such as what a police officer is.
The children, ages two to 29, were all malnourished, with the exception of the youngest. Officers said that all of the children appeared to be minors at first, although seven of them are 18 or older. Years of malnourishment had stunted the victims’ growth. The 29-year-old daughter weighed only 82 pounds when rescued, and the 12-year-old child weighed as much as the average 7-year-old.
“The victimization of these children seemed to intensify over time,” Riverside County District Attorney Mark Hestrin said.
Hestrin also said that the daughter who called 911 had been planning the escape with her siblings for at least two years.
According to Louise Turpin’s brother, Billy Lambert, the Turpins dreamed of a reality TV show starring their family. Lambert has said that Louise Turpin was “obsessed” with shows like “Kate Plus 8” and “19 Kids and Counting,” both of which feature large families.
Supporting this theory is the fact that the Turpins’ children all had names that started with the letter “J.” In addition, the children were made to wear matching outfits whenever they went out in public, according to Hestrin.
The family, who had moved twice since 2014, was planning another move to Oklahoma from Perris, CA. Officials are still investigating why the move was to take place.
Both David and Louise Turpin have pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted, they could face a maximum sentence of 94 years to life.