Secret shame that sparked family horror

THE depraved world of the notorious Turpin family has been exposed, as 60 Minutes tonight delved deeper into one of the worst cases of child abuse the world has ever seen.

It comes as David and Louise Turpin made a brief appearance in a California court on Saturday morning for an arraignment into the case where they are accused of mistreating 12 of their 13 children.

The Channel 9 program interviewed family members and neighbours of the Turin family and lifted the lid on the twisted family secret that started a nightmare that somehow managed to remain hidden in plain sight for over a decade.

Louise's brother Billy Lambert and sister Teresa Robinette both said they had no reason to believe anything suspicious was going on.

"We thought she had the perfect life, she had the perfect husband. We thought she was happy," Mr Lambert said.

"Anytime they wanted something they did it. Because we always saw pictures of them going to Disneyland or going to Las Vegas. We're like well you kind of have to have money to keep going to Las Vegas. Face to face I thought they were just a normal, happy family."

Teresa says Louise kept up appearances whenever they would communicate.

"There was Skype for a while and we would make comments. I remember making the comment that they were all so little. They're all so little. Even the older ones, they're all so little. And I remember Louise saying well they're just gonna be tall and lanky like David you know," Ms Robinette said.

"They didn't look severely malnourished, they looked healthy they just looked small.

I think she clothed them in a way that we couldn't see and I think when the questions started she cut all visual contact and just talked to us on the phone."

Ms Robinette also revealed how Louise's own history as a victim of abuse impacted her life.

Ms Robinette says she and Louise were repeatedly sexually abused by their grandfather.

"My mum would take us to him daily. She was pretty much selling us for money to live on, that's how it is. I don't like saying it like that and it breaks my heart but it is what it is," Ms Robinette said.

"Louise went through the same thing we went through with my grandfather which was probably the darkest, hardest thing for any of us girls to deal with."

Teresa was interviewed about her sister by 60 Minutes.Source:Channel 9
Teresa was interviewed about her sister by 60 Minutes.Source:Channel 9

Ms Robinette said she believes the cycle of abuse made Louise think what she was doing was acceptable.

"All the abuse together that she went through, I think made her mind whatever her mind was. I think it destroyed her self-worth and made her think that that was OK," she said.

The Turpins' neighbours, Ricky and Shelly Vinyard, spent a decade living right across the road from the family.

Many have questioned why they didn't raise any alarm bells or contact the authorites.

"I'm disappointed at the neighbours," Mr Lambert said. "They said that they were marching in a circle at night time upstairs and they saw them in the window. To me that seems a little strange right there. I would at least go knock on the door and be like is everything ok?"

He added: "There was another neighbour that came forward that said that two of the older boys were digging in the trashcans at night. How is that not a red flag??

When asked if they had thought about contacting police about the strange things they saw, Mr and Mrs Vinyard said they didn't realise how bad things were.

"We thought about it but then again, you're out in the country and you mind your own business and you figure they want their business kept to themselves and you don't realise what you're seeing," Mrs Vinyard said.

"I mean evil is deceptive. I mean, it can look good from a surface if you don't get in there too deep."

Ms Robinette told 60 Minutes that her sister and David deserve to rot in prison.

"In my head there is no justice for what she's done to those babies. I really hope they're getting what they deserve in prison and that's just the way I look at it. I have absolutely no pity," she said.

Ms Robinette previously revealed in an interview with The Sun that their mother Phyllis Robinette let a rich paedophile sexually abuse them as children in exchange for cash.

"Our mum should have been protecting us - but she sold us to a wealthy paedophile," Ms Robinette said.

"He would slip money into my hand as he molested me. I can still feel his breath on my neck as he whispered 'be quiet'.

"We begged her not to take us to him but she would simply say: 'I have to clothe and feed you'. Louise was abused the worst. He destroyed my self-worth as a child and I know he destroyed hers too."

David and Louise Turpin. Picture: 60 Minutes  Source:Channel 9
David and Louise Turpin. Picture: 60 Minutes Source:Channel 9


David and Louise made a brief appearance at Riverside County Superior Court on Saturday. In a sign they are trying to move on with their lives, the victims asked that their birth certificates, IDs and a camera that was removed from the home be given back to them, ABC 7 reported.

The documents had been taken as evidence in the torture case, and the judge agreed they are no longer needed and will be released back to the children.

It comes more than a month after a judge ruled that there was enough evidence for the duo to stand trial on 88 charges including torture, child abuse and false imprisonment. David also faces one charge of lewd acts on a child.

However, one charge was dropped against David in last month's hearing, when the judge ruled the youngest of the children, aged 2, did not appear severely malnourished.

The Turpins are suspected of having treated their children so badly that they now suffering long-term disabilities including stunted growth, after being found emaciated and barely educated.

One of the girls plotted her escape for two years before breaking free of a window, and called authorities to the home.

"I live in a family of 15 people and my parents are abusive," the girl told the dispatcher in a chilling 911 call that was played at a court hearing in June. "They abuse us and my two little sisters are chained up."

The children were discovered filthy and shackled inside the Perris, California house, in dark and foul-smelling conditions.

They were allegedly denied food and toys, and the oldest of the children - aged between two and 29 - weighed just 37 kilograms. They were allowed just one shower a year.

Doctors who examined the children found signs of severe malnutrition.

David and Louise had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges and are being held on $US12 (AUD16) million bail each. If convicted, both face life in jail.


A new book by another one of Louise's sister, Elizabeth Flores, detailed how the accused child abuser was obsessed with witchcraft, Satanic rituals and Ouija boards.

"She told me she was messing around with witchcraft. It just really freaked me out," Ms Flores told the New York Daily News in an interview about the book Sister of Secrets.

Ms Flores said her sister was obsessed with the "dark arts" and had even tried to persuade her to join a snake handling festival.

"Louise was attracted to that, like women dancing with rattle snakes around their necks."

Now she wonders if the obsession could have played a part in the child abuse nightmare.

Ms Flores, who hasn't had a "sister relationship" with Louise for about 20 years, also said she noticed her sister changed when she met David, when she was just 15 years old.

She has also previously claimed that she, Louise and their cousins were sexually abused as children by a close family member, with talk of the molestation "swept under the rug".

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