This is the heartbreaking story of the Turpin family of Perris California. The media dubbed the family's home the "House of Horrors" as what was discovered in their home, which included 13 children, was shocking. This was one of the more difficult cases I've done, but it gave me this opportunity to bring awareness and discussion to an important issue that continues to be prevalent in homes and in families today.
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Transcribed Episode / EP09: "Behind Closed Doors" The Turpin Family
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[911 Call from Jordan Turpin]
911 - state your emergency
Yes I'm here, I'm still here.
What's your name?
Jordan Turpin. Okay 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. There's 13 kids, and then a mother and father.
And how many siblings are tied up?
Two of my sisters, one of my brothers.
[Intro Music Begins]
Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S each year. An estimated 678,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect in 2018. 92% of children are abused or victimized by a parent. But no one knows the actual number of children that are abused as cases are likely underreported or not reported at all.
Although we hear about child abuse in media, we have celebrities talking about it, we have advocacies for it, it’s still something that never goes away. This episode is titled “Behind Closed Doors” because as the Turpin household will show, most abuse happens behind closed doors, behind the secret walls of a home, where no one can see and no one knows what really goes on.
There are so many different faces of child abuse, and the signs are usually subtle...we need to continue to educate and inform the public of what abuse looks like, sounds like, and feels like, so that those walls can begin to be broken down and that children like the Turpin children, can have hope and live their lives free of fear and free from abuse.
[Intro Music Ends]
Often times, abuse begets abuse. For Louise Robinette, the household she grew up in was not a happy one.
Raised in a religious household with her father Wayne making a living as a preacher, Louise was viewed as the “good girl” growing up, one who never smoked, drank or did drugs. Living with her two sisters, Teresa and Elizabeth, the girls would often have to endure arguments between their parents, often covering their ears when their parents, Phyllis and Wayne, would fight. But constant fighting among the parents wasn’t the only abuse the children were subjected to.
According to Teresa, Louise’s sister, she shockingly recounted memories of her childhood when their mother Phyllis would regularly “sell” the two girls to a wealthy pedophile who would routinely abuse them. When the girls would beg their mother not to take them to the man, their mother would tell them that “I have to clothe and feed you.” Teresa said that the man would slip money into her hand as he molested her. She would recall that she could feel his breath on her neck as he would whisper to her to “be quiet.”
Louise’s older sister, Elizabeth Flores, would go on to publish a book titled “Sisters of Secrets” where she would corroborate her sister Teresa’s claims of sexual abuse, but also claimed that her sister Louise began to practice witchcraft as an adult, that she was a habitual gambler, and that she was obsessed with snakes and abused alcohol. When Louise reached her 40’s, her sister claimed that she was dressing and acting vulgar on MySpace and into sex practices.
Louise herself has claimed, via her attorney, that she suffers from histrionic personality disorder. Those that suffer from this disorder usually have intense, unstable emotions and distorted self-images. Their self-esteem depends on the approval of others and they tend to have an overwhelming desire to be noticed, often behave dramatically or inappropriately, even sexually or seductively to get attention.
David Turpin grew up in Mercer County, West Virginia. His parents, James and Betty Turpin had ensured that their children grew up well educated. David attended the same high school at Louise Robinette, although he was eight years her senior. According to his high school’s 1979 yearbook, David is listed as a member of the Bible Club, Chess Club, Science Club and the A cappella Choir. David seemed to be a studious and busy teenager who, according to friends from his high school, was kind of a nerdy homebody. After high school, David enrolled in Virginia Tech University to study computer engineering. He ultimately landed a job at General Dynamics, an aerospace company whose Fort Worth Texas division - which manufactured the F16 Fighting Falcon - was sold to Lockheed Martin Corporation in 1993.
Louise Robinette met David Turpin when she was just a teenager and they began a courtship, unbeknownst to Louise’s father Wayne. However, Phyllis Robinette, Louise’s mother, approved of this courtship - mainly because David came from a christian family, and she trusted Louise.
When David was 24 years old and Louise was just 16, David had convinced her Princeton, West Virginia high school to let him sign Louise out for the day and the two drove all the way to Texas to secretly elope before Louise’s mother Phyllis and her husband Wayne complained to the police and forced the couple to return home. Louise’s father wasn’t upset that they left to elope, he believed that they should allow their 16 year old daughter to live the life she wanted - he was more upset that they left without having a proper wedding ceremony! So David and Louise came home to Princeton, and ultimately got married in a small intimate church wedding with just their two families, in 1984.
After their small wedding, David and Louise headed back to Texas to begin their lives together. David Turpin decided early on that they would have multiple children - they both held the belief that having many children was God’s will, that they were a blessing. Just five years later they had their first child, which would be one of 13 children that they would go on to have...a total of 10 girls and 3 boys.
In the 1990’s the Turpins moved to a home near Fort Worth Texas and according to neighbors, they rarely interacted with anyone. By that time, they had an 18 month old daughter named Jennifer and David was earning a six-figure salary as a Defense Contractor with General Dynamics.
After moving to Fort Worth, Louise invited her mother and siblings to visit. This would become annual visits to the Turpin household that her family would make over the next several years - with Louise and David fronting the bill for their airfare and travel.
After they had Jennifer, Josh was born in 1992, and in 1993 Louise greeted her family at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport pregnant with her third child, Jessica.
When Jennifer turned eight years old, she would finally start the first grade, two years behind schedule. But the frail and pale looking girl was bullied by her classmates. She was not only a couple years older than her peers, but she had poor personal hygiene which would cause her classmates to hold their noses when she’d pass by. She would wear the same clothes to school each day and her long greasy brown hair was never brushed.
Two years later, in 1995, Louise gave birth to her fourth child Jonathan and in 1997 to a fifth child, a daughter, Joy. Three months following Joy’s birth, Jennifer started the second grade at Meadowcreek Elementary School. Her hygiene was still an issue, and had even gotten worse. A classmate of Jennifer’s, Jessica Bermejo, recalled that “She smelled just like dirty clothes and urine.” Jennifer was also exhibiting odd and sometimes disturbing behavior in her classrooms. Another classmate, Jared Dana, recalls a teacher sending Jennifer to the principal’s office for rubbing her pubic area, but no investigation was ever done into the Turpin household.
As the years kept rolling on, the children kept coming as well, and in 1998, Louise gave birth to her sixth child, Julianne.
The following spring, Jennifer stopped attending Meadowcreek Elementary. This would be the last time she would attend public school as David Turpin had decided to home-school his children.
In 1999, Jeanetta was born, their seventh child. Louise and David would send photographs of their children to family members, the children always smiling and well dressed in matching outfits, their lives seemingly picture perfect.
In June of 2001 sheriff’s deputies made a visit to the Turpin home after a 4 year old child was bit by a border collie. It’s one of the two times that police officers ever interacted with the family. The family was once again visited by deputies in February 2003, after the Turpin’s pigs got loose and ate 55 pounds of dog food that belonged to a neighbor.
Following Jeanetta, the Turpins would go on to have six more children, including Jordan, Jolinda, and in 2006 Julissa. Three of the children’s names could not be located.
In 2010, David left his job at General Dynamics and began working for Northrop Grumman. Northrop advised David that they would be relocating to California, so in June of 2010 David and Louise packed up their family and moved to a two story, six bedroom home in Murrieta California. Again, according to neighbors, they rarely interacted with any of the residents of the neighborhood. The neighbors who worked night shifts would often catch the children in the 2nd story of the Turpin home, marching back and forth at odd hours in the middle of the night.
At some point during this time, one of the Turpin’s older sons enrolled in classes at Mount San Jacinto Community College. Louise, apparently not entrusting her son with any type of freedom, would escort him to his classes and wait outside to bring him home once class was over.
One place David and Louise loved to visit was Las Vegas. In October of 2011, they decided to renew their wedding vows in a Las Vegas chapel, accompanied by all of their children who they had dressed alike and who had similar haircuts.
David and Louise were also obsessed with anything related to Disney. Mickey and Minnie Mouse statues adorned their unkept backyard, and two of their four vehicles had Disney license plates and contained a pink Disney car seat. The Turpins would splurge and take their children on rare trips to Disneyland. The children are seen in photos again, dressed in matching outfits and having similar haircuts.
It was clear that David and Louise Turpin’s lives were not as perfect as they seemed on the outside. In 2011 David and Louise filed for bankruptcy, claiming $240,000 in credit card debt. The bankruptcy listed his income as an engineer at Northrup Grumman, making $140,000 a year. He was also listed as being the principal of the “Sandscale Day School” - a home school for his 13 children which was operated out of the Turpin’s Home. Louise was listed as a “homemaker.” Louise never obtained a job, but apparently assisted David in the homeschooling of their children.
As time went on, Louise’s family would visit her and her children less and less. In 2012 Louise’s father retired and when he asked her if he could come out to Texas to visit, Louise told him not to.
In 2014 the family moved to their last home - a single-story, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Perris California. Perris California is a suburb of Los Angeles and Riverside Counties and lies roughly about 70 miles southeast of the city of Los Angeles.
Once again, to the neighbors in their new Perris neighborhood, the Turpin children were rarely seen.
In 2015, David and Louise decided it would be a good time to once again renew their vows. As the family readied themselves for the big event, the girls donned the same outfits - red checkered dresses that reached about mid calf length complimented by white tights and the same white heels or flat shoes for the younger girls. The boys donned black or navy suits - some too short for their frame, their hairstyles matching that of their father’s in sort of a longer Beatles-style or bowl-style hairdo.
The Elvis Impersonator wedding ceremony aficionado sings and dances all the while the Turpin parents and children amusingly look on, slightly moving to the beat and snapping their fingers awkwardly, as if unsure if that’s the right thing to do. It’s obvious they are uncomfortable in the moment, unsure of how “far” they can go to actually enjoy themselves. It’s honestly one of the most awkward videos of a wedding ceremony you will probably ever witness:
[Excerpt of 2015 Vegas Wedding Ceremony]
Fantastic Mom and Dad, this is great, I, I it is a pleasure, [clapping] yeah yeah...we are family, come over to the house later. I only have 12 rooms though so, we'll share.
Today, tomorrow and forever, your love has truly grown. You love each other more today, which means tomorrow morning you'll wake up still married, but loving each other more than, then today. It is Halloween day, the year 2015, by the power that's vested in me, by the suit that I wear today, yes. David and Luise I announce to the world that the two of you are, have been for 30 years, and the two of you still will be, husband and wife, together forever. David, you may now kiss your beautiful wife! Yeah! [camera clicking]
It's a beautiful song, it's from the 1950's, and would the children please join me down in front...
[Elvis Impersonator Singing]
Yeah! Oh Yeah! Uh huh, won't you wear my ring, around your neck to tell the world I'm yours by heck...
The Elvis impersonator was asked to recall that particular ceremony and had this to say about the Turpin children:
[Excerpt of Elvis Impersonator Describing Turpin Children]
The way the kids looked physically, uh, thin but not, not excessively thin. I thought they were very active as a family. I didn't think they didn't eat, or there was punishment or anything like that. They were quiet but yet they were well behaved. They didn't seem like they were, ya know, if they acted out of line, they were just well behaved, they smiled a lot. It's hard to believe that the people that I performed for and entertained and sat and talked before and after entertaining them, that this could happen. It's just, it's disturbing, it really is.
In February of 2016, Louise’s mother Phyllis passed away without having seen her daughter and her family for years. Louise’s father died three months later. Louise did not attend either of their funerals, David, however, did attend both of them.