LOS ANGELES (NBC NEWS) —David and Louise Turpin, the California parents who beat, starved and held 12 of their children captive inside their home, were sentenced Friday to life in prison.
The husband and wife pleaded guilty in February to 14 counts each of torture, dependent adult abuse, child endangerment and false imprisonment.
During their sentencing, both parents cried and wiped away tears as some of their children addressed the courtroom. The judge ruled the couple will be eligible for parole after 25 years.
“My parents took my whole life from me, now I’m taking my life back,” one of the couple’s daughters said. “Life may have been bad, but it made me strong. I saw my dad change my mom, they almost changed me. I’m a fighter, I’m strong.”
Disturbing details of the abuse came to light in January 2018 after one of the daughters, who was 17 at the time, escaped their Perris home and used a cellphone taken from the house to call 911. The girl, who officers initially thought was a child because she was so emaciated, told police that her brothers and sisters were being held by her parents and some of them were chained, investigators said.
When authorities entered the house, they found the children — whose ages ranged between 2 and 29 years old — being held in “dark and foul-smelling surroundings,” authorities said.
Some of them were bound to their beds and furniture by chains and padlocks and many of the children told police that they were “starving,” according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
“I love both of my parents so much,” a statement read in court from another daughter said. “God looks at the heart and I know he sees there’s. I’ve prayed often for them.”
Louise Turpin read a prepared statement for the court, apologizing to her children.
“I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to hurt my children. I love my children so much,” she said. “I want them to know that mom and dad are going to be ok.”
David Turpin was so emotional, he had his lawyer read parts of his statement.
“I never intended for any harm to come to my children … I hope the very best for my children in the future,” the lawyer read.
Prosecutors said the Turpin children were only given one rationed meal a day and allowed to shower once a year. Their parents would bake pies and not let their hungry children eat them, and would buy toys but forbid the children from opening or playing with them.
The children were forced to spend most of their time in the house. Neighbors told NBC Los Angeles last year that they knew David and Louise had a lot of kids but weren’t sure how many because “the kids didn’t come out very often.”
There were times the family was all out together, like the trips to Las Vegas where David and Louise would renew their vows. Videos showed the girls in pink dresses, white tights and heels. The boys wore dark suits with white shirts and red ties.
Kent Ripley, an Elvis impersonator who renewed the couple’s vows at a Vegas chapel, said the children were always quiet and well-behaved.
Louise’s sister, Teresa Robinette, said during an interview that the family also gave the impression that they were “living the perfect the life” and recounted how Louise would tell her about the Vegas trips and vacations at Disneyland.
Investigators, however, painted a very different picture.
Only one of the children — a son — was allowed to leave the home to attend classes at a community college but was always accompanied by his mother.
The siblings would also get in trouble for things like “playing with water” while they washed their hands. Prosecutors said punishment ranged from being beaten and choked to shackled to their beds with no access to the bathroom for months at a time.
One of the daughters was allegedly the victim of a lewd act by her father, prosecutors said.
Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in January 2018 that the abuse “started out as neglect” during the 17 years the family lived near Fort Worth, Texas, and intensified when they moved to California in 2010.
The only child — of the 13 total — who appeared to have not been abused was the couple’s youngest child.
Despite the horrific torture authorities said the children endured, some of the children told the courtroom Friday about how much they loved their parents and said they did their best to raise them.
“I cannot describe in words what we went through growing up,” one of the sons said. “Sometimes I still have nightmares from things that have happened. … But that is the past and this is now. I love my parents and have forgiven them.”