1. ITV Report

Californian parents who tortured and abused children given life sentences

Donald Turpin was jailed for life for torturing his children. Credit: AP

A Californian couple who inflicted years of torture and abuse on 12 of their 13 children have been sentenced to life, with parole possible after 25 years.

Their crimes were only discovered when one of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator.

The sentencing of David and Louise Turpin was preceded by the first public statements from some of the children, who alternately spoke of love for their parents and of what they had suffered despite it as the couple wiped away tears.

David Turpin (second from right) and wife Louise (left) talk to their attorneys during the sentencing hearing Credit: Will Lester/AP

The Turpins pleaded guilty in February to neglect and abuse.

“I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to hurt my children, I love my children so much,” Louise Turpin said.

None of the children were publicly identified.

One of the adult children walked into court already in tears just after the hearing began, holding hands with a prosecutor.

A daughter said: “Life may have been bad but it made me strong.

“I fought to become the person that I am. I saw my dad change my mum. They almost changed me but I realised what was happening. … I’m a fighter, I’m strong and I’m shooting through life like a rocket.”

Louise Turpin listens to her attorney Jeff Moore during the sentencing hearing Credit: Will Lester/AP

Some of the others said they still love their parents.

One asked for a lighter sentence because “they believed everything they did was to protect us”.

The horrors within the home were concealed behind a veneer of suburban normalcy in a middle-class section of Perris, a small city about 60 miles south-east of Los Angeles.

The residence was neatly kept and neighbours rarely saw the children outside but nothing triggered suspicion.

David Turpin, 57, had been an engineer for Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Louise Turpin, 50, was listed as a housewife in a 2011 bankruptcy filing.

David Turpin (left) listens to his attorney Credit: Will Lester/AP

But the children’s desperate plight became public after a teenage daughter escaped from the filthy home by jumping from a window, then used a mobile phone to contact a police dispatcher and begin describing years of horrific abuse.

When deputies arrived, they were shocked by what they discovered.

A 22-year-old son was chained to a bed and two girls had just been set free from their shackles.

The house was covered in filth and the stench of human waste was overwhelming.

Children said they were beaten, caged and shackled to beds if they did not obey their parents.

Judge Bernard Schwartz said the children were not allowed to be filmed or photographed.

Most of the 13 children – who ranged in age from two to 29 – were severely underweight and had not bathed for months.

The desperate cry for help from the 17-year-old came after a lifetime of living in such isolation, the girl did not know her address, the month of the year or what the word “medication” meant.

But she knew enough to punch the digits 9-1-1 into a barely workable phone and then begin describing years of horrific abuse to a police dispatcher.