Louise Turpin: The Mother Who Kept Her 13 Children Captive For Years, Possibly Even Decades

Published November 13, 2021
Updated February 27, 2024

Louise Turpin and her husband kept their 13 children prisoner for the majority of their lives — feeding them once a day, bathing them once a year — and now the couple faces life in prison.

Louise Turpin currently sits in a California jail. The 50-year-old mother and wife was sentenced to life in prison in February 2019.

Together with her husband David, Louise Turpin had secretly kept her 13 children in captivity for years — possibly even decades.

Some of the kids were so isolated from society that they barely knew what medicine or police were, upon finally being rescued from their false imprisonment after one child managed to escape and alert police in January 2018.

Louise Turpin

EPALouise Turpin in court on February 22, 2019.

The children weren’t allowed to eat more than one meal per day, which led to malnourishment so bad that Louise’s eldest — a 29-year-old woman — weighed a mere 82 pounds when she was saved. Additionally, Louise Turpin didn’t let her children shower more than one time per year, Yahoo reported.

After their 17-year-old daughter ran off and managed to use a cell phone to call the police, Louise Turpin and her husband were quickly arrested.

With the fate of lifelong imprisonment looming over their heads, likely to be handed down on the sentencing date of April 19, 2019 — a look inside Louise Turpin’s crimes as a mother, and her complicity as a wife, warrant thorough exploration in order to understand the bizarre story of her and her family.

Life Inside The Home Of David And Louise Turpin

Louise And David Turpin

News.Com.AuLouise Turpin holding one of her 13 children.

Louise Anna Turpin was born on May 24, 1968. As one of six siblings and the daughter of a preacher, Louise’s life has seen its fair share of tumult and purported trauma. Her sister claimed it was an abusive household and that Louise’s abuse toward her own children originated from her childhood.

When her parents, Wayne and Phyllis Turpin, died in 2016 — Louise didn’t attend either funeral.

By the time she was 16, her high-school sweetheart and current husband — who was 24 years old at the time — convinced school employees in Princeton, West Virginia to sign her out of school.

The two essentially eloped and managed to get to Texas before being caught by police and brought back home. The forcible return wasn’t an effort to prevent the couple’s marriage, however, as Louise’s parents Phyllis and Wayne gave their blessing and allowed the two to tie the knot.

Louise and David successfully wed, back in West Virginia, that same year. Soon, they had children and the years of abuse began.

Throughout Louise Turpin’s years- or decades-long streak of criminal child abuse, her and her husband’s crimes were almost found out several times. The state of the family home and the visible psychological damage bestowed on the kids were simply too obvious to ignore.

Neighbors who visited the home would encounter feces smeared across the residence and beds with ropes tied to them in various rooms, The Los Angeles Times reported. There were piles of trash strewn about the property and there was even a pile of dead dogs and cats in the trailer.

Nonetheless, nobody ever notified the police.

The only saving grace these 13 children ever had was the ingenuity and bravery of one of their own, KKTV reported. When Louise’s 17-year-old daughter jumped out of a window and ran off in January 2018, she managed to call 911, pleading with them to save her younger siblings who were chained to a bed.

“They will wake up at night and they will start crying and they wanted me to call somebody,” she said. “I wanted to call y’all so y’all can help my sisters.”

Though Louise Turpin and her husband were finally arrested as a result, her children had been suffering from unspeakable, torturous conditions for years.

Family Home In Perris

Wikimedia CommonsThe Turpin family home in Perris, California, on the day of Louise Turpin’s arrest in 2018.

When police arrived at the home — an unsuspecting residence in an average, middle-class part of Perris, outside of Los Angeles — they found what has since been described aptly as a “house of horrors.”

Louise Turpin’s children, who were between two and 29 years old at the time, were glaringly underfed and malnourished. They also hadn’t been washed, showered, or bathed in months. When questioned by police, they admitted to having been beaten. They also said they had been purposefully starved and often caged like animals.

Two of the girls had just been released from being chained to one of the beds, just like their 17-year-old sister described on the phone earlier that day. One of their brothers, who was 22 years old at the time, was still shackled to a bed when law enforcement arrived.

He told police that he was being punished for stealing food and being disrespectful — something his parents apparently suspected of him, but something he didn’t say was accurate, nor point to any evidence of being true.

The Turpin family was reportedly very nocturnal, presumably to continue the wretched state of affairs without curious neighbors assessing the situation more carefully. As such, the children weren’t just deprived of food and proper sanitation but were prohibited from spending time outside as well.

How The Turpins Got Away With It For So Long

David And Louise Turpin With Children

FacebookThe type of family photo Louise Turpin would share online to continue her children’s captivity.

News of these criminal conditions and behaviors came as a huge shock to friends and neighbors of Louise Turpin’s, as all the photos shared on social media depicted what seemed like a normal, loving family.

While it’s odd that none of the neighbors noticed anything strange, during all those years of child abuse and horrid conditions within the home, the family’s online presence portrayed a family that cares for its members, goes on trips to Disneyland, plans birthday celebrations — even had three separate vow-renewal ceremonies for Louise Turpin and her husband in 2011, 2013, and 2015.

Friends of the Turpins said the entire family traveled to Las Vegas for these events, with photo evidence of all 13 children dressed in identical purple dresses and ties within the Elvis Chapel confirming this outwardly convincing appearance of normalcy.

Footage of Louise Turpin’s 2015 Las Vegas vow renewal ceremony with her husband, at which her daughters sang Elvis songs.

The inner truth, of course, was another matter entirely. David Turpin’s mother said she hadn’t seen her grandchildren in nearly five years.

The neighbors said they were surprised at the shocking revelations, but also admitted they’d never seen the younger kids in person — and that one rare sighting of the older kids working in the yard revealed children who were “very pale-skinned, almost like they’d never seen the sun.”

Even the couple’s lawyer, Ivan Trahan, was fooled by the happy facade, claiming the parents “spoke lovingly of their children and even showed (him) their photos of Disneyland.”

The truth, of course, was much stranger than the fiction Louise Turpin and her husband had constructed.

Family Outing

CNNThe Turpins on a family outing.

Louise Turpin’s children had grown up so malnourished that even some of her adult children appeared years younger and less developed than they physiologically should’ve upon being rescued. Their growth was stunted, their muscles had been wasting — and one of the 11-year-old girls had arms the size of an infant.

During their time as victims of abuse, the children were also deprived of the things that typically fill a child’s spare time, such as toys and games. Louise did, however, allow her children to write in their journals.

Though the Turpin’s 2011 bankruptcy filing listed Louise as a housewife and reports had been filed with the state of California that her children were being home-schooled, the oldest child had officially only completed the third grade.

On the rare occasion that Louise did allow her children to venture outside and participate in normal childlike activities, it was Halloween or one of the aforementioned trips to Las Vegas or Disneyland.

The kids were mainly locked inside their rooms for the majority of the time — unless it was time for their daily single meal or if a trip to the bathroom was absolutely necessary.

When they were rescued, all of them were immediately hospitalized. They haven’t spoken publicly since, as Riverside County authorities have garnered temporary conservatorship of them.

Why Louise Turpin May Have Done It

Dr. Phil speaks to Dr. Charles Sophy, medical director of L.A. County Department of Children & Family Services, about the Turpin case.

Louise Turpin’s 42-year-old sister Elizabeth Flores recently met with the incarcerated mother face to face for the second time, National Enquirer reported. During their chats, Louise initially feigned complete innocence, hinted at the truth, and ultimately blamed her own history as an abused child for her behavior.

“I didn’t do it,” claimed Louise. “I’m not guilty! I wish I could explain to you what happened… but I just can’t because I don’t want to get in trouble with my lawyer.”

Flores explained that during her first visit, Louise denied everything and that this faint acknowledgment that there is, indeed, something to explain was a heartening change of pace.

“It wasn’t until the next time that I saw her when I went to court with her on March 23 that she started being more open to what had happened,” Flores claimed.

“There will be a lot of times that the kids will come up and she will cry,” she said. “She was like ‘I can’t believe it’s been a year’ since she last saw them. I mean we try not to talk about the children when I’m up there because she’s not really supposed to be talking about them for legal reasons.”

Flores said that both she and her sister suffered sexual abuse in their childhood and that Louise tried to argue that it was the primary reason for the illegal, criminal behavior that got her locked up.

“We were all sexually abused going up,” Flores said. “But Louise got the least of it because she got married (at 16) and moved away. It’s no excuse…Our sister and I faced a lot worse, and we didn’t abuse our children.”

Teresa Robinette speaking to Megyn Kelly about her and Louise’s abusive childhood.

The other sibling Flores referred to could well be sister Teresa Robinette, who recently told The Sun that she and Louise Turpin were sold to a rich pedophile by their late mother, Phyllis Robinette, when they were young.

“He would slip money into my hand as he molested me,” said Robinette. “I can still feel his breath on my neck as he whispered ‘be quiet.'”

“We begged her (Phyllis) not to take us to him but she would simply say: ‘I have to clothe and feed you,'” Robinette said. “Louise was abused the worst. He destroyed my self-worth as a child and I know he destroyed hers too.”

Nonetheless, Flores believes her sister Louise to be guilty of her crimes — and agreed with the law’s response.

“She deserves what’s coming for her,” said Flores.

What’s In Store For The Turpins Now

Louise Turpin and her husband pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges on February 22, 2019, ranging from torture and false imprisonment to child endangerment and adult abuse.

This plea deal will keep both of them in prison for the rest of their lives, securing the two main goals of the prosecution — punishing the adults, and ensuring they would never be able to hurt their children again.

“Part of our job is to seek and get justice,” said Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin. “But it’s also to protect the victims from further harm.”

This will also relinquish the need for any of Louise’s kids to testify at a criminal trial, which was scheduled for September, until the parents pleaded guilty. As for their extensive prison term, Hestrin believed it fair to essentially sentence the two parents to die in jail.

“The defendants ruined lives, so I think it’s just and fair that the sentence be equivalent to first-degree murder,” he said.

Turpin Home With Feces On Carpet

CBSDFWThe Turpin home, with noticeable feces and dirt stains.

Seven of Louise Turpin’s children are now adults. They reportedly live together and go to an unspecified school, while recovering both mental and physical faculties with a proper diet and a healthy, active routine that has them spend a normal amount of time outside.

Jack Osborn, an attorney who represents these seven survivors, said his clients cherish their privacy too dearly to partake in a lengthy criminal trial or use whatever spotlight this macabre case has shined on them to enter the public eye.

“They are relieved they can now move forward with their lives and not have the specter of a trial hanging over their heads and all the stress that would have caused,” said Osborn.

As for Louise and David entering guilty pleas and the justice system legally punishing the two parents for their admitted crimes, clinical psychologist and University of California, Irvine professor Jessica Borelli believes it an invaluable element of the children’s mental recovery.

“It is a pretty clear affirmation of how they were mistreated,” said Borelli. “If there is any part of them that needs validation that how they were treated was wrong and was abuse, this is it.”

While Louise Turpin has a few more weeks left before her plea deal officially bestows a lifelong prison sentence on her, the children she’s victimized and abused for countless years seem to be doing better than ever. While the guilty plea removes the need for them to attend or testify at the sentencing in April, Hestrin is so heartened at their newfound strength that they just might decide to speak their minds, after all.

“I was very taken by their optimism, by their hope for the future,” he said. “They have a zest for life and huge smiles and I am optimistic for them and I think that’s how they feel about their future.”

After reading about Louise Turpin and how she tortured her 13 children, learn about Elisabeth Fritzl, who spent 24 years captive in her father’s prison. Then, read about Mitchelle Blair, who tortured her children and hid their bodies in a freezer.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Cite This Article
Margaritoff, Marco. "Louise Turpin: The Mother Who Kept Her 13 Children Captive For Years, Possibly Even Decades." AllThatsInteresting.com, November 13, 2021, https://allthatsinteresting.com/louise-turpin. Accessed June 24, 2024.