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(SKY NEWS) — A US couple who starved and locked up 12 of their 13 children have been jailed for life.
David and Louise Turpin were sentenced on Friday during an emotional hearing that saw some of the children speak publicly about the abuse for the first time.
One of their daughters, weeping, said in court: “My parents took my whole life from me but now I’m taking my life back.”
The sentencing comes more than a year after the couple’s 17-year-old daughter jumped out of a window of the family’s squalid home to tell police that some of her siblings were chained to their beds.
A recording of the emergency call she made to police was released in which she revealed the horrific abuse suffered by her and her siblings.
She is heard saying: “I’ve never been out. I don’t go out much.”
Throughout the course of the conversation, she said two of her sisters and one brother were “chained to their bed”.
She explained: “Sometimes we live in filth, and sometimes I wake up and I can’t breathe because how dirty the house is.”
The couple, who pleaded guilty to years of abuse and torture, may be given parole after 25 years of their sentence.
Mrs Turpin,50,wept as she apologised for hurting her children, while Mr Turpin,57,an engineer, struggled to give a short statement.
She told the court: “I’m sorry for everything I’ve done to hurt my children. I love my children so much.”
Before sentencing some of the children spoke of love their for their parents and of what they had suffered.
One of the children asked for a lighter sentence for the parents because “they believed everything they did was to protect us”.
An adult daughter walked into court in tears as she held hands with a prosecutor.
She said: “Life may have been bad, but it made me strong. I fought to become the person that I am.
“I saw my dad change my mom. They almost changed me, but I realised what was happening… I’m a fighter. I’m strong and I’m shooting through life like a rocket.”
The horror in the house was concealed by a veneer of normality in the middle class area of Perris, a small city about 60 miles south east of Los Angeles.
Outside the house was kept neat and neighbours said that although they rarely saw the children, there had been nothing to cause them to be suspicious.
When police arrived at the house they were shocked by what they discovered.
They found a 22-year-old son chained to a bed while two girls had just been set free from their shackles.
The house was covered in filth and the stench of human waste was overwhelming.
Children said they were beaten, caged and shackled to beds if they didn’t obey their parents.
Judge Bernard Schwartz said the children were not allowed to be filmed or photographed.
Most of the 13 children – who ranged in age from two to 29 – were severely underweight and had not bathed for months.
The court heard the desperate cry for help from the 17-year-old came after a lifetime of living in isolation and she did not know her address, the month of the year or what the word “medication” meant.
The court heard the children were only allowed to shower once a year and were confined to their rooms except for meals, which had been reduced from three to one a day.
The children were not allowed to play like normal children and other than an occasional family trip to Las Vegas or Disneyland, they never left the house.
In February, the couple pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges including torture, abuse and neglect.
Mr Turpin’s parents, who lived in West Virginia, have previously said the couple were deeply religious and made the children memorise Bible verses.
All the children were taken to hospital when they were discovered, and Riverside County authorities have taken temporary care over the adults.
Those under 18 are in child protection agencies.
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