On January 14, 2018, a 17-year-old girl escaped her family home in Perris, California, and called 911 to report that she and her 12 siblings were being held captive by their parents, 49-year-old Louise Turpin and 56-year-old David Turpin. When police arrived at the home, they found several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks, and they appeared to be “malnourished and very dirty,” according to a press release from the sheriff’s department. Investigators were shocked to learn that the siblings ranged in age from 2 to 29, because the older siblings were emaciated and did not appear to be adults.
While many disturbing details about the California “House of Horrors” have emerged over the past few months, many are still wondering what could have led to the alleged decades of abuse. Louise’s sister Teresa Robinette is asking herself that same question, and it’s one she hopes will be answered at the couple’s trial.
Louise and David were booked on more than 40 charges, including child abuse, abuse of a dependent adult, torture and false imprisonment. David was also charged with one count of lewd conduct with a minor. Both Louise and David have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Their lawyer told reporters that "the case will be tried in court. It will not be tried in the media.”
At a news conference shortly after the Turpins’ arrest, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin said, “Sometimes in this business, we're faced with looking at human depravity — and that's what we're looking at here.”
In an interview with host Soledad O’Brien for Oxygen’s documentary special “The Turpin 13: Family Secrets Exposed,” Robinette said she hadn’t seen her nieces and nephews in years and had no idea about the reported abuse until she saw the news. Robinette claimed she and her family used to fly down to the Turpins’ previous home in Texas, but the visits inexplicably stopped in the late ‘90s. She now wonders where it could have been to hide the alleged abuse.
The Robinette sisters.
“My main thing that I want to know is, where did it turn? What happened? Why?” she told O’Brien. “Is that why she stopped the visits? Is that why we could no longer come out there, and she no longer came to visit us? Is that when it started and why?”
According to Robinette, she always believed Louise and David had a fairytale romance, but looking back, she wonders if they were ever truly in love.
“The people that we knew then, I mean, is a world away from what we’re hearing now,” said Robinette. “So, either some really bad things happened that changed who they were as people, or they’re just very, very good actors. And I think they’re just very, very good actors.”
To learn more about the case and find out where the children are now, watch “The Turpin 13: Family Secrets Exposed” on Oxygen.