The children of a California couple who pleaded guilty to torturing and abusing 12 of their 13 children for years had an emotional support dog with them in court last week to assist them in facing the parents who abused them.
David and Louise Turpin were sentenced Friday to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. During that hearing, some of the children spoke publicly about the abuse for the first time.
"Life may have been bad but it made me strong,” one of the victims testified, according to the Associated Press. “I fought to become the person that I am. I saw my dad change my mom. They almost changed me, but I realized what was happening. ... I'm a fighter, I'm strong and I'm shooting through life like a rocket."
There to help her and her siblings be strong was K9 Raider, a yellow Labrador who is employed by the Corona Police Department to ease tension for crime victims, support those impacted by traumatic events, and “calm children who have to testify in court against their suspected abuser,” according to the police department.
In January 2018, a 17-year-old daughter of David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin escaped her family's Perris, California home to report that she and her siblings were being abused. Police said they found the Turpin children, who range in age from 2 to 29, bound to their beds with chains and padlocks. Because of the malnourishment they all suffered, police initially thought all victims were much younger than they actually were. They mistook the 17-year-old girl for a 10-year-old, according to a police press release.
“OK, I live in a family of 15 people and my parents are abusive. They abuse us and my two little sisters right now are chained up,” that girl said in her initial call to 911, the New York Daily News previously reported. “Sometimes I wake up and I can’t breathe because of how dirty the house is. We never take baths.”
One of the children asked Raider to be with them Friday at the Riverside County Superior Court hearing, Corona Police Sgt. Adam Roulston told CNN. He is one of the dog’s handlers. The police department complied and he comforted more than just one Turpin. Not only was he a warm being for them to pet, but he sat by the side of two of the siblings as they gave testimony.
Raider already had a relationship with many of the Turpins as he previously had met them and played with them in an effort to reduce anxiety.
"Seeing the way that he does and seeing how he makes people feel better it's the best reward ever," Roulston told CNN. "Officers and public safety personnel want to help people and Raider is a tool to help us do that."
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