Turpins: The ‘happy family’ at centre of torture allegations

David Allen Turpin (left) and Louise Anna TurpinImage copyright
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David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, have been held on charges of torture and child endangerment

Outwardly, the California couple accused of torturing and endangering their 13 children seemed to preside over a happy American family.

If the photographs the couple posted on Facebook are anything to go by, the Turpin children enjoyed trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas, where their parents renewed their vows several times.

On the family pictures, the children appear dressed in identical outfits, pale but smiling.

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The Turpins on a family trip to Disneyland – it was apparently a favourite destination

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David-Louise Turpin/Facebook

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The couple’s Facebook page contains numerous family photos

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The Turpin family with an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas, where they renewed their vows

That’s also what people who dealt with them have said about them.

A lawyer who represented the couple in their latest bankruptcy in 2011, Ivan Trahan, told the Los Angeles Times newspaper: “To me and my wife, Nancy, who was with me during the interviews, we always thought of them as very nice people who spoke highly of their children.”

On the California Department of Education website, Mr Turpin is listed the principal of Sandcastle Day School – a private school operated out of his home.

The school was opened in March 2011, the website says. Six pupils are enrolled there, all in different grades.

Mrs Turpin is listed in public records as a housewife, with no income.

‘Strict home-schooling’

David Turpin’s parents, James and Betty Turpin, told ABC News they were “surprised and shocked” at the allegations. They said their grandchildren were home-schooled, and that they had not seen their son and daughter-in-law in several years, although they were in contact by phone.

James and Betty Turpin said “God called on them” to have as many children as they did (referring to David and Louise).

They also said the children were given “very strict home-schooling,” and that the children had to memorise long passages of the Bible. Some of the children were aiming to learn it in its entirety, they said.

When the grandparents last visited the family, four or five years ago, they noticed the children “looked thin”, they said, but they seemed like a “happy family”.

However, neighbours have reported that they rarely saw the children playing outside and according to public records, Mr Turpin was twice declared bankrupt.

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Neighbours said the Turpins were rarely seen outside their home

The couple had lived at their current California address since 2010; before that, they had lived in Texas for many years.

Mr Turpin is said to have had a relatively well-paid job as an engineer at aeronautics and defence technology company Northrop Grumman.

But with his many children and his wife not working, public records suggest his expenses exceeded his income.

Bankruptcy documents show he earned more than $140,000 (£124,000) in 2011, but that the family’s expenses exceeded his take-home pay by more than $1,000 a month, reports say.