By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A Southern California couple who pleaded guilty to charges stemming from grim, headline-making accusations they beat, starved and shackled their 13 children in the family’s home were due to be sentenced on Friday to 25 years to life in prison.
David Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise Turpin, 50, agreed to the long prison terms as part of an agreement with Riverside County prosecutors that saw them plead guilty in February to torture, child abuse and false imprisonment charges.
The plea deal, which calls for additional charges against both spouses to be dropped, means they will spend the rest of their lives in prison unless granted parole after a mininum of 25 years behind bars.
The sentencing marks the culmination of a criminal case that has convulsed the community of Perris, California, some 70 miles (113 km) east of Los Angeles, since an emaciated 17-year-old girl climbed out of a window of the family’s home and called 911.
Deputies who raided the residence found the girl’s 12 brothers and sisters, ranging in age from 2 to 29, trapped inside the darkened, foul-smelling house, some of them chained to beds.
The siblings, found to be suffering from malnourishment, muscle wasting, stunted growth and other signs of severe abuse, were taken into protective custody, and the parents were arrested.
Prosecutors said the victims had been denied proper nutrition, basic hygiene and medical care and were harshly punished for perceived infractions such as wasting water by washing their hands above the wrist.
The couple also were accused of taunting their children with pies and other food that they were forbidden to eat.
David Turpin’s parents, James and Betty Turpin of West Virginia, have said their son and daughter-in-law were a deeply religious couple who home-schooled their children and required them to memorize Bible scripture.
The children, whose ages now range from 3 to 30, are in the care of child and adult protection agencies.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Tom Brown)