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 they found several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks, and they appeared to be “malnourished and very dirty”.
Investigators were shocked to learn that the thirteen siblings ranged in age from as young as two to adults aged 29 because the older siblings were emaciated and didn’t appear to be adults at all in appearance. It’s been less than four months after the Turpin children have been rescued from their parents’ “house of horrors” and are now, thankfully said to be thriving these days.
All 13 children are readjusting to normal life after they were found living in unthinkable conditions. The seven adult Turpin siblings have now moved together to a home in rural California after being released from the Corona Regional Medical Center in mid-March. They were reunited with their family dogs and they have their own rooms with their own closets.
Past Secrets Now Exposed
While many disturbing details about the “House of Horrors” have emerged over the past few months, it left me wondering what could have led to the alleged decades of abuse?
This question led me on a journey all the way back to Princeton, West Virginia where the couple first met and to the original “house of horrors” with Louise’s sister Elizabeth Flores and cousin Tricia Andreassen.
We go beyond the shocking headlines into the story surrounding the Turpin family and parents, retracing the family’s dark past. Together, they’ve come home again to face the family demons they feel led Louise down her shocking path, one that’s left her in jail facing a possible life sentence. Watch our journey back to West Virginia to learn more about the case.
Sisters of Secrets
While on this journey, we unexpectedly came face-to-face with one man whose alleged abuse may have started it all and brought a flood of repressed memories to the surface. Elizabeth Flores shares the alleged horrific abuse both Louise and she endured at the hands of her grandfather in her memoir, “Sisters of Secrets.” Here is an excerpt:
“The earliest memory I have is at about four years old. I remember being told by Papaw, “You better keep this quiet. If you tell your Daddy, you know how mad he’ll get, and he might hurt me. You know if he does that, he will go to jail.”
My heart raced as I listened to him. I didn’t want my Daddy in jail! I couldn’t wrap my little mind around what Papaw was doing and why he would say such things. I was told to keep a secret, and it could not leave the family. I knew if I told anyone there would be consequences. He also threatened, “You know if you tell anyone, someone will come and take you away from Mommy and you will never see her again.” That terrified me! I could be taken away from Mommy and Teresa and also my Daddy; so I stayed quiet. I also thought if what Papaw was doing was so bad, he would go to jail and then my family would hate me. I felt so ashamed of what was being done to me; I couldn’t even speak it if I wanted to. It got much worse, like a nightmare. One day Mommy said she would take us over to Papaw’s because he would give her some money. She put little Teresa and me in the car, and we headed over just a few minutes away.
When we got there, Papaw greeted us with his same sweet voice he always had and said, “Come on girls, let me show you my basement I am building.” He led little Teresa and me down the stairs. There was one big room that had dirt for walls, and there was no light. It was scary down there and kinda felt like a grave or something. There was one chair. He sat down on the chair and put me up on his lap. Poor little Teresa was forced to watch. She was about four years old because by this time I was about nine. I can remember her crying in the dark room while Papaw did stuff to me because she had no choice but to watch. She knew what was coming next. Once he was done with me, he would remind me again of all the reasons not to tell, and then he would pick up little Teresa and do the same thing.
The first time it happened, I let out a scream and tried to run from him, but he grabbed my arm from behind. He put his hand over my mouth to shush me. I knew Mommy was letting it happen because we were told that we had to go with her. When we got there, she said, “Now y’all girls go play with Papaw for a while.” Sometimes we had to go over there more than once a week and every single time the same thing happened. She got her money from Papaw, and we went back home. I’m sure Mommy thought I was too young to realize what she was doing, but I wasn’t. Sometimes I think she may have just thought I was just stupid or thought they were sneaky enough about it because this continued through my teenage years. I always prayed for it to stop. I didn’t want to go around my Papaw. I had no choice. Since the news broke about Louise, I have had nightmares. Tricia has cried in my arms reliving her childhood abuse from Papaw and other men. But we know we have to stay united because we hope that we can help others reveal the dark secrets that hold them captive.”
Elizabeth Flores is now seeking to press charges on the family patriarch for the alleged abuse and Louise and David are 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. Louise and David both have pleaded not guilty to the charges.