By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A Southern California couple was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison on Friday after the pair pleaded guilty to charges stemming from grim, headline-making accusations they beat, starved and shackled their 13 children in the family’s home, prosecutors said.
David Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise Turpin, 50, had agreed to be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison 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 couple cried during the sentencing hearing, where they listened to statements from their children and delivered statements of their own, according to video footage from ABC News.
“I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to hurt my children. I love my children so much,” Louise Turpin said. “Their happiness is very important to me.”
As part of the plea deal, which called for additional charges against both spouses to be dropped, the Turpins will spend the rest of their lives in prison unless granted parole after a mininum of 25 years behind bars, the Riverside County District Attorney said on Twitter.
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.
“My parents took my whole life from me, but now I’m taking my life back,” said one of the Turpins’ daughters, who was not named in court, on Friday.
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; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Tom Brown and Chizu Nomiyama)