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‘This is depraved conduct’: An overview of the ‘house of horror’ case so far

Countless articles have been written about what has been described as a “house of horrors” in which a California couple allegedly abused and tortured 13 children ranging in age from 2 to 29.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, David and Louise Turpin were arrested earlier this month after their 17-year-old daughter escaped the home where her siblings were kept in harsh conditions. The teen contacted authorities, who responded to the home in Perris and took the parents into custody on suspicion of torture.

Details of that investigation continue to trickle out into the media, leading to a more comprehensive look at the torture that allegedly took place under the Turpins’ roof.

The Washington Post compiled an overview of the case as reported thus far, including claims of increasingly severe punishment and abuse.

Children were routinely tied to their beds with rope for perceived misbehavior, police believe. Rope was reportedly upgraded to locks and chains when a child was able to escape the ligatures.

In addition to more severe materials, the children were allegedly subjected to the restrictive confinement for increasingly longer periods of time and were not even freed when they needed to use the bathroom. The children were also allegedly beaten and strangled for infractions of their parent’s harsh rules.

Baths were reportedly reserved to just once per year and hand-washing that extended beyond the wrist was considered worthy of punishment, authorities say.

With the exception of the youngest, adult and minor children were found severely malnourished. Investigators say they were kept on strict and scarce feeding schedules and often taunted by their parents, who purchased food and made the children look at it from beyond reach.

The oldest, a 29-year-old woman, reportedly weighed just 82 pounds at the time of her parents’ arrest.

While all of the children were reportedly starved to the point that they appeared younger than their actual age, two dogs at the location were apparently taken care of and well-fed.

Prolonged abuse reportedly left many of the children with lasting impairments including cognitive difficulties and nerve damage.

Except for family outings publicized on their parents’ social media profiles, the children were allegedly kept inside the home virtually around the clock. Police believe any education they received came from their parents and they were made to keep bizarre hours, sleeping most of the day and remaining awake during the night.

Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin described the treatment as “severe, emotional, physical abuse” of all 13 children.

“There’s no way around that,” he said. “This is depraved conduct.”

The 17-year-old who was able to escape reportedly did so after extensive conversations among the siblings about the desire to make a break for freedom. She found a deactivated cell phone inside the home and was able to call 911 and lead police back to the residence.

David and Louise Turpin both face a number of felony charges. The father is also accused of committing a lewd act on one of the couple’s minor female children.

Even public defender David Macher acknowledged it “is going to be a challenge” to argue against such serious allegations, but he noted that the “clients are presumed to be innocent — and that’s a very important presumption.”

The adults and children were taken to separate facilities for treatment after they were rescued. Among the older siblings, one doctor described a bond that is “very natural for people who are cut off from the outside world.”

[Featured image: Louise Turpin and David Turpin/Riverside County Sheriff’s Department]