Religious Parents Sentenced to Life in Prison for Torturing Children

Religious Parents Sentenced to Life in Prison for Torturing Children April 20, 2019
Riverside County Sherriff

The religious parents that chained up and tortured their 12 children were sentenced to 25-years to life in prison. David and Louise Turpin were arrested in January 2018 after their 17-year-old daughter escaped through a window and called the police to report the abuse. During the sentencing, the court listened to letters from a few of their children.

In a California courtroom, Louise and David Turpin appeared somber and disheveled. The couple accepted a plea deal for the torture and abuse of their 12 children last month.

At the sentencing, two of their children shared victim impact statements with the court. Another letter was read to the court by a third party on behalf of one of their daughters. The statements by the children were the first time the public has heard directly from the children impacted by the horrific abuse.

In a quiet and childlike voice, one of their adult daughters addressed the judge. She told the court that her parents had stolen her entire life from her. Today she is attending college, living independently, and enjoys hanging out with her friends.

The girl went on to say that she watched her father change her mother. Determined not to become like them, she said she did what she could to help her family.

“I’m a fighter, I’m strong, and I’m shooting through life like a rocket.”

Then one of their adult son Joshua read two statements. The first statement he read was from his sister Jessica. In her opening words, she wrote that she loved her parents very much and thanked them for raising her. She expressed gratitude for teaching her about God. Then she stated she knows that God can see the heart of a person and she knows that God sees her parents heart.

According to the letter, Jessica is attending college. She lives independently and travels to school by herself. Then she quoted a bible passage. She ended by telling her parents she loved them and said, “God is all we need.”

During the letter, Louise Turpin sobbed and wiped tears from her eyes. Her mouth quivered and she moved forward in her chair as though she wanted to reach out to her son.

Next, Joshua shared his letter to his parents. He started by saying he could not describe the way he grew up.

“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 beaten.”

He continued that he forgave his parents for the past. Since their arrest in January 2018, Joshua started college and began working on a bachelor’s degree. He lives independently and hopes to begin a master’s degree after graduating with his bachelors.

An attorney for the children read the final letter to the court written by their daughter Joy. Joy provided insight into the abuse she experienced at home. However, she dismissed the violence by claiming her parents were overwhelmed and financially stressed.

Joy recalled that her mother worried about the children drinking too much sugar and caffeine. Because David needed soda in the home to “stay awake,” the parents decided to chain the kids up so they could not eat sugar or drink caffeinated soda.

In regards to homeschooling, Joy said her parents sent her older brother to public school. However, they did not like what the school was teaching them. They began to homeschool him and proceeded to homeschool all of the children. The task to homeschool 12 children became too overwhelming which Joy believes led to escalating abuse.

Joy said the abuse escalated in 2016 to the worst levels after both of Louise’s parents died. According to the daughter, her parents were overwhelmed financially but were too proud to ask for help.

Instead, they resorted to drastic measures to protect their children. She denied that her parents knew that they were malnourished.

In her final statement, she asked the court to lift her restraining order against her parents. Prosecutors responded by telling the judge they requested new restraining orders for all of the victims. The judge enforced the laws and told David and Louise they could not have any contact with their children.

David Turpin spoke briefly to say he loved his children and believed that his children loved him. He said he pleaded guilty so his children would not be forced to testify against him.

Then he told his adult children that he hoped they all finished their degrees and had successful careers. David cried and stopped during periods of his statement.

When Louise spoke, she was extremely emotional. She told the court that she was blessed to be the mother to her children.

Louise shared that she loved her children so much and wished them all the best in the future. Then she told the court she longed for the day where she could speak to them and tell them she is sorry.

When the judge spoke, he did not mince words.

“The selfish, cruel, and inhumane treatment of your own children has deprived them, your family, friends, and society their gifts.

Their lives have been permanently altered in their ability with their ability to learn, grow, and thrive.

You have delayed their mental, physical, and emotional health. To the extent that they do thrive, it will be not becuase of you but in spite of you.”

Following the remarks by the judge, he sentenced the couple to 25 years to life in prison. He told the couple the only reason they will have the possibility of parole is that they admitted their guilt.

By pleading guilty, the judge said they saved their children’s revictimization by having to testify in court.

The sentencing ends the criminal phase of the case that began in January 2018. Police arrested the couple after their 17-year-old daughter snuck out of a bedroom window and called the police. She told police that her parents were holding her siblings against their will and chaining them to beds.

When police arrived, they found the house in complete disarray. The home smelled like urine and feces. Authorities found multiple children chained to beds.

Through interviews with police, the children described years of horrific abuse. Their parents kept them chained to the bed for weeks at a time as a form of punishment. They were not unchained to use the restroom. The children described horrific beatings by their parents. Additionally, their parents only allowed the children to shower once a month.

All of the children were extremely malnourished and small for their ages. Initially, police believed all of the children were minors. However, through interviews, they realized that several of the children were in their 20s. Despite their age, their parents refused to let them move out or live on their own.

The children were not allowed to attend public school. They had limited access to the internet or the outside world. Most of them had never seen doctors, and none of them knew what police officers were. Their father allowed them to keep journals. Police learned many details about the abuse through the seizure of the journals.

David and Louise were religious zealots that seemed to fear the world around them. They forced their children to memorize Bible passages and march in circles around the house.

Numerous times during the court statements of the victims the children referenced their parent’s abundant love for God. However, there seems to be something seriously wrong with their understanding of God. If God existed, why would he/she allow the horrific abuse and torture of the children?

Also, if the parents loved their kids as much as they said, why would they chain them up, torture them, and beat them for years. Why would the parents hold their adult children hostage?

Parents like the Turpins consistently use God as a means to abuse and harm their children. They hide behind their faith as an excuse to torture and control their kids. Children become the property of the parents and become collateral damage to the parents’ twisted belief system.

Louise and David Turpin seemed genuinely remorseful. However, I’m not convinced they even fathom how greatly they damaged their children. As I watched the sentencing, I failed to believe either of them would have changed on their own. They seemed only remorseful that they were caught.

Neither of these people deserves to ever walk in the free world again. They have completely damaged and ruined their children. As evidenced by their children’s statements, they brainwashed their children to believe their abuse was done out of love.

My one hope is that the court continues to keep the parents away from the children. These kids have a lot of healing to do. Their parents were not loving or kind. No amount of abuse should ever be excused by feeling “overwhelmed.” Telling the children, they were chained, so they didn’t drink soda is the ridiculous excuse. The parents could have easily locked the pop up rather than the children.

These parents are monsters. There are no excuses for this behavior. May they rot behind bars until they die.

Watch the full sentencing hearing here:

*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.

She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis on The Non-Sequitur Channel. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.

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  • persephone

    This whole case has been upsetting and disgusting, and the statements from the children are a perfect example of how children adapt to abuse.

    The comment on how their dad changed their mom is tied to how the marriage started. Louise was a sixteen-year old high school student; David was 24. He convinced the school to let him sign her out of class. When her parents found out, they said she was on her own. Her sister said her preacher father was abusive to them, and that’s not surprising.

    So you have a young, underage woman from an abusive home, who is taken advantage of by a much older boyfriend, who manages to elope with her.

    He decides that God wants them to have as many children as possible. A little dictator establishing his domain. Louise is too young, worn out by pregnancy and childbirth, and financially they’re hard up. Neighbors in West Virginia saw the horrors in and out of the trailer, but never reported it.

    Then began the cross country journey to keep hiding the abuse and neglect. And we know most of the rest.

    I’m not excusing Louise, but our society does not recognize how abuse permanently affects people, especially girls and women in this patriarchal society.

    I hope that eventually all of the children will come to understand that their parents did not love them, because love would have been caring for their needs and wants, none of which occurred. It’s very common for victims of domestic violence to believe they love their abuser, but, usually in six months to a year, the separation from the abuser allows them to come to terms with the situation and recognize that love had no part in it.

  • Sara Lynn Frederiksen

    I find it impossible to excuse the woman’s behavior towards her children by blaming “this patriarchal society”. No, no. She has as much guilt as her husband. To somehow try to justify her abuse of her kids by using that as an excuse is ridiculous.

  • persephone

    I’m not justifying it; I’m understanding it. Understanding why people do things is important to prevention and change.

  • Jennny

    I was so sad to read that some of the abused children said they were loved and forgave her. What I know about psychology could be written on a postcard, but I return to an article in the UK’s Guardian newpaper. It’s about the severe after effects of separation on children held at the Mexican border. I quote from it:

    ‘In recent years, a growing body of research has revealed that people who experience prolonged levels of trauma, especially as children, have higher rates of chronic disease and mental illness. For migrants, the
    separation and isolation, experts said, both qualified as adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, that trigger the brain’s “fight or flight” mode and cause toxic stress. Prolonged exposure to toxic stress raises blood pressure, heart rate,and floods the brain with cortisol and other chemicals, which can rewire neural pathways and change the very architecture of the mind. In children, too much toxic stress can sabotage the nervous system and affect learning, memory and decision making. It can elevate levels of inflammation in the body that cause heart disease, stroke and autoimmune disease, and disrupt growth and development. It can even alter your DNA and change how it gets expressed.’ (I keep this to quote back at fundies who say any sort of abuse can be prayed away and heal as fast as a cut finger heals).

    The whole (long) article is here:

  • Lisa Cybergirl

    Children become the property of the parents

    This attitude, that children belong to their parents, creates so much misery! It disregards the child’s needs, and completely overrides the child’s rights and the respect even the youngest deserve.

  • “However, there seems to be something seriously wrong with their understanding of God. If God existed, why would he/she allow the horrific abuse and torture of the children?”

    I’ve asked that question for years, in regards to my husband. If god existed, s/he could have done something when my husband was beaten by his “father” simply for walking into a room, or provided food for my husband when his “father” refused to feed him, or unlocked the door for my husband when his “father” locked him out of the house.

    My husband is perhaps the most wonderful man I have ever met. But he may never be close to healed from his childhood and what his “father” did to him. There are no punishments in hell suitable enough for that sorry excuse of a human being for what he did, for all the pain and suffering he caused my beautiful, wonderful, loving husband.

    This case, what happened to my husband, it just proves: there is no god.

  • Delta

    “As evidenced by their children’s statements, they brainwashed their children to believe their abuse was done out of love.”

    This is a common thing among abuse survivors. Sometimes, this belief makes it harder for them to acnowledge that what happened was even abuse in the first place. To me, I think it’s more helpful to say that regardless of intention, what they did was wrong and cruel, than to say “no, that’s not love.” But maybe different things are helpful for different people and different situations.

  • So what? None of that makes what these sick fucks did okay.

  • No, you made excuses for it. The only thing we need to understand is that these abusive shitstains CHOSE their behavior. Period.

  • Lambchopsuey

    So the Stockholm Syndrome poster children defend their abusers/captors and sacrifice themselves. Sick, sick, sick. And drop that sick “God” stuff already – that was what led those monstrous parents to believe they could do whatever they wanted to their property children.

    Face it – Christianity has no understanding of human rights, no understanding of consent. These principles come to us from the brilliant atheist minds of the Enlightenment, who had the courage to stand up to the brutality of dictatorial Christianity that sought to keep everyone in chains, in darkness. If there were a drug that, once administered, reliably caused any person to become a fully committed, zealous Christian, then we can have every confidence that Christians would be roofying us all, sneaking that drug into our food and drink, “for our own good”. They’re monsters, all of them. Never trust a Christian; never turn your back on a Christian. They do NOT have your best interests at heart, because they believe that the best thing for you to do in life is to become a carbon copy of THEM, a pale shade imitation of them. Because that will make THEM feel important. Screw them.

  • Lambchopsuey

    Agreed. At every moment, every person is doing his/her best. For whatever reason, this person believes that this action is the best possible option. If we can understand WHY this person believes this crazy shit, then perhaps we can save others from a similar situation.

  • Lambchopsuey

    What could any “god” provide that you and your community cannot? The evidence is clear that this “god” the delusional bang on about is useless at best; neglectful and outright cruel, even sadistic, at worst.

  • Cordyceps sapiens

    Given the religious extremist nature of the abuse, the victims who “forgave” their parents were not truly aware that there was another option. The Christian exhortation to “forgive” those who trespass against you is very easily wielded by abusers to get away with the most grotesque things, and not feel any guilt over it because, after all, they were forgiven.

  • Can confirm, thanks to my ex. He expected me to forgive and forget and act like whatever he’d done never happened.

  • persephone

    You know what? You’re back on the anger train. Either chill out or get off the board. I don’t know what it is with you, medications or triggers or what, but you go from normal to psycho in minutes.

    I’ve been kind and suggested help. I’ve been patient and written off your comments when you’re like this.

    But now I’m done.

    Ignoring the causes of behavior guarantees that behavior will be repeated over and over. People are always saying, “Why would someone do that?” Well, we need to look at the situation and discuss it and try to figure out why.

  • persephone

    I never said it did.

  • We already know why they abuse. Power and control. It’s literally that simple.

    Seriously, sit in on group therapy for abusive men. They know exactly what they’re doing, and they do it deliberately. From the first tiny push against her boundaries to the epic beatdown administered when she tries to leave, it is all deliberate and planned. They literally openly admit to it in group.

    But here you are ignoring their own words, and wailing about how we “need to understaaaaaaand abusers”.

    PS: I’m not angry, but I will be if you continue to pull this mind-reading bullcrap about what I “really” think or feel. It’s rude, and it’s abusive. Stop it or I WILL get the blog owner involved.

  • Flagged. Your personal attacks are unwarranted.

  • Why?


    Abusive men in group therapy have outright admitted that their actions are deliberate, premeditated, and designed to give them as much power and control over their victims as possible.

  • No you just went on and on about “oh, if only we knew why….” when ABUSIVE MEN HAVE LITERALLY SAID, THEMSELVES, THAT IT IS 100% POWER AND CONTROL THAT DRIVES THEM.

    So for me, it ends right there. They choose to behave abusively because they want power and control. Period.

  • I don’t think it’s okay to tell people how they’re “allowed” to feel, and certain commenters are doing just that.

  • persephone

    I fucking did not. JFC. You’re done. I’m tired of you feeling you have the right to scream at people over your issues.

    I spent years in an abusive relationship, trying to get out, calling the cops, no family to turn to because I left their religious cult and was shunned, regularly raped, having to keep my job because he turned into a full blown meth addict, and I STILL DON’T FUCKING GET ON THIS BOARD AND SCREAM AT PEOPLE BECAUSE I FEEL LIKE MY LIFE HAS BEEN SO FUCKING TERRIBLE.

  • persephone

    You are the one regularly making personal attacks and I’ve been very nice about it. I’m done.

  • persephone

    You are so tied up in your personal pity party you can’t even catch one clue.

  • I haven’t made a single personal attack, sweetie. I just pointed out that you are wrong. YOU made it personal when YOU decided to engage in mind-reading. Flagged again.

  • Uh, yes, you did. Don’t deny what’s up there in black and white for everyone to see.

    They do it because they feel entitled to treat people — esp. women — as property. They do it for power and control.

    PS: I wasn’t screaming, cupcake. You’re taking your issues out on me and projecting your actions and motivations on to me. Stop it.

  • LOL there you go again, pretending you can read minds!

    Flagged for personal attack.