RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Several children of a California couple convicted of torturing and abusing them inside their home gave emotional statements at a hearing Friday before their parents were handed a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
“My parents took my whole life from me, but now I’m taking my whole life back,” a daughter said in court. “I’m in college now and living independently.”
Louise Turpin cried and David Turpin wiped his eyes as their children shared powerful messages to both of their parents.
"Life may have been bad but it made me strong,” the daughter said. “I fought to become the person that I am. I saw my dad change my mom. They almost changed me, but I realized what was happening. ... I'm a fighter, I'm strong and I'm shooting through life like a rocket."
The couple pleaded guilty in February to torture and other abuse and neglect so severe it stunted their children’s growth.
"I'm sorry for everything I've done to hurt my children. I love my children so much," Louise Turpin said at the hearing.
The couple had imprisoned their 13 children for years but on Jan. 14, 2018, one of their children escaped and contacted law enforcement who, upon entering the home, discovered a "house of horrors."
Inside the home, deputies discovered one of the couple's children chained to a bed and two others who had just been set free from their shackles. The house was covered in filth and the stench of human waste was overwhelming, deputies said.
Before their 17-year-old daughter escaped from the home in a middle-class section of the city of Perris, about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the Turpins had lived largely out of view.
In court, some of the other children said they still love their parents. One asked for a lighter sentence because “they believed everything they did was to protect us.”
The couple's son who spoke thanked his parents for teaching him about God and faith, adding, "I hope they never lose their faith. God looks at the heart and I know that he sees theirs.”
He went on to describe the turmoil that he faced, but concluded by telling his parents that he forgave them.
“I cannot describe in words what we went through growing up. Sometimes I still have nightmares of things that had happened, such as my siblings being chained up or getting beaten. But that is the past and this is now,” the son said in court. “I love my parents and have forgiven them for a lot of the things they did to us.”
It was the first time the children spoke publicly since the arrest of their parents. They have the right to address the court to say how they’ve been impacted by the abuse.
David Turpin, 57, had been an engineer for Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Louise Turpin, 50, was listed as a housewife in a 2011 bankruptcy filing.
The couple's children told authorities that they were only allowed to eat once a day and shower once a year. The evidence of starvation was obvious. Deputies said the oldest of 13 siblings, a 29-year-old woman, weighed just 82 pounds.
Some of the siblings appeared to lack basic knowledge of the world, being unfamiliar with what medicine and police were.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.