Captive Children In California

By Isabella Randazzo, Tyler Stafford and Julia Ruggieri
FEB 26, 2018

Louise Turpin, the mother of the children. Photo: Riverside County Sheriff’s Office

On January 14, 2018, police entered the home of David and Louise Turpin in Perris, California and discovered a truly disturbing scene. The couple’s thirteen children had been living in highly unsanitary conditions and a state of neglect. reported that authorities found “some of [the children] shackled to beds with chains and padlocks.” reported that the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office described the children as “malnourished and very dirty.” The ages of the children range from 2-29 years old; six of them are under the age of 18.

One of the children, a 17 year old girl, was finally able to escape from the house. She had been planning to run away with some of her siblings for more than two years. The girl managed to flee through a window, with only one of her siblings and a deactivated cell-phone. However, she had to continue alone because her sibling was too scared and decided to turn back. At the first opportunity, she used the deactivated phone to dial 911. The officers who arrived at the scene initially thought that this 17-year-old girl was only 10 years old.

Neighbors of the family had occasionally noticed odd behavior. Wendy Martinez, who lives near the Turpins, told the Los Angeles Times that she saw some of the children rolling out sod in the front yard late at night. “That was kind of weird, all four of them were on the ground rolling out sod,” she told reporters.

David Turpin, the father of the children. Photo: Riverside County Sheriff’s Office

In order to prevent something like this from happening again, it is essential that people become more aware of the signs of child neglect. The Child Welfare Information Gateway reports that some of the signs are “sudden changes in behavior or school performance, lack of adult supervision.” This organization notes that it is important to “Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the child shrinks at the approach of adults, or abuses animals or pets.” If child abuse is suspected, it must be reported to a local law enforcement agency or the state’s designated child neglect hotline. Here is the list of hotline numbers by state.

As of this writing, David and Louise Turpin are being held on a $9 million bail. They appeared in court on January 18 and were charged with nine counts of torture and 10 counts of child endangerment each. They pleaded not guilty to all charges and will return to court on February 23.


Illustration: Kayla Hadeed