In 2019, David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty to multiple felony counts including torture and false imprisonment

By Christine Pelisek
April 13, 2020 08:59 AM

For many children, Christmas is a time for joy — but for the children of Louise and David Turpin, it was a nightmare.

Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Kevin Beecham, who worked the case that led to the parents’ eventual imprisonment, says the couple kept unopened toys in their Perris, Calif., garage as a form of “psychological torment” to their children.

“They had bikes in there,” he tells PEOPLE. “They had toys. All of them unopened. They weren’t allowed to go in the garage and play with any of these, but they all knew that the garage was just filled with these random toys.”

For many of the siblings, if they were caught stealing food out of the pantry, they didn’t get to celebrate Christmas.

“Mom had a list of who lost Christmas,” he says. “Some kids weren’t getting Christmas until 2021. All the kids would have to be around the Christmas tree. The ones that weren’t getting gifts were just kind of sitting there, watching the other ones that did get gifts open them. And the ones that did get gifts felt really ashamed, they felt embarrassed opening a gift in front of the other siblings.”

Credit: Courtesy Billy Lambert

Beecham recalls that one of the girls, who was in her twenties at the time, received a Barbie for Christmas one year.

The years of torture, abuse and malnutrition the Turpin kids endured at the hands of their parents came to light in January of 2018 when two of their daughters decided to escape their Perris, California, house. One went first, and two minutes later, the other followed. One got lost and returned to the house, but the other called 911 — bringing the police.

Inside the house, officers found a scene of malnutrition and squalor, with one of the Turpin boys chained to his bed.

Louise Turpin
| Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP

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Beecham, who worked closely with the siblings and saw them twice a month when he was preparing a case against their parents, says investigators found a “mountain of evidence” inside the Turpin’s Perris home, which included chains, video footage and filth.

David Turpin

The kids were forbidden to socialize with each other, and when they were caught trying to take food, they were chained to their filthy beds. They were also banned from exercising.

“They were supposed to sit down or lay down in their room,” says Beecham. “They weren’t even supposed to stand.”

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Beecham also says that all smoke detector batteries in the Perris home were either low or out. “There’s that annoying beep, that loud beep,” he says. “That’s what you heard all throughout the house. The psychiatrist explained that’s one mechanism that torturers would institute to try to keep control by using sounds.”

The Turpin’s Perris Calif. home
| Credit: Sandy Huffaker/Getty

Investigators also found thousands of clothing items Louise bought for herself with the tags still on — yet “the teenage girls had one item of clothing apiece, and then their pajamas. And of course, underwear that they’ve been wearing for like six months at a time,” Beecham.

In 2019, David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty to multiple felony counts including torture and false imprisonment and are now serving sentences of 25 years to life.