California Parents: Why Did They Chain Up & Torture Their 13 Kids? Experts Explain

It's hard to imagine why parents would 'torture' their kids & hold them captive. But speaking to experts, we've tried to investigate some of the reasons behind this duo's brutality.

California parents who chained and tortured their kids
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Image Credit: Courtesy of Riverside County Sheriff's Department

David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin ran a house of horrors until they were arrested at their home in Perris, California on Jan. 14. The couple had 13 biological children, and when police got to their house, some of the kids — ranging in ages 2 to 29 — were shackled to furniture. All were malnourished and extremely pale. So what drove David and Louise to allegedly commit such heinous acts? Speaking with a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, we learned the two most likely suffer from some kind of psychosis or disorder. And not only that, but they could have easily gotten “sadistic pleasure” from watching their children suffer!

“There are various explanations for why these parents tortured and endangered their 13 children,” Carole Lieberman, M.D., Beverly Hills psychiatrist, and author told EXCLUSIVELY. “The simplest explanation is that they kept having children because they believed God wanted them to, but then had insufficient means to care for them.” David’s parents, James and Betty Turpin, who live in West Virginia, told a local TV station that “God called on [David and Louise]” to produce so many children, according to the New York Post. So it looks like Dr. Lieberman could be on to something.

“They filed for bankruptcy in 2011. Though Mr. Turpin was an engineer, he did not earn nearly enough to take care of all their children,” the doctor added. “So, they began falling deeper and deeper into a hole. They may have reasoned that the longer they could keep their children little, the easier it would be to feed them.” On the other hand, the parents could also be mentally ill. “[They] seem to be suffering from some psychiatric disorder, in which they were able to deny the degree of torture they were inflicting,” Dr. Lieberman continued.

“They told themselves that, as long as they took the children to Disneyland or Las Vegas once in awhile, the children would be alright. The parents may be psychotic, or it may be a ‘folie en famille,’ which means a shared psychotic disorder within the family. The parents could also be extremely narcissistic, whereby they keep their children around them as adoring fans and don’t feel the need to take care of them.” The Turpins did, in fact, take a few family trips over the years — including to Disneyland — but for the most part, they didn’t leave the house. 

For psychotherapist, Dr. Robi Ludwig, while we truly don’t have enough information to diagnose David and Louise, it does seem pretty clear that they suffer from a type of psychosis. “To have two parents psychotic or delusional in the same way would be unusual, although I suppose possible,” she told us EXCLUSIVELY. “Could the parents be reenacting a personal childhood experience of torture and abuse? Are they on drugs? Are they simply sadistic and get pleasure from feeling all powerful by torturing their children? Any or all of the above are possible explanations to look at.” She added, “Could be some form of sadistic pleasure.” 

Dr. Lieberman agrees. “Keeping the kids chained up and starved is a way to control them and get sadistic enjoyment out of their pain,” she told us. “Obviously, no parents should have kids if they can’t handle them or take care of them financially.” The kids were discovered after one of the 13, a 17-year-old girl, managed to escape the house and call 911 from a cellphone. The teen met with nearby authorities who found her so small and emaciated, they assumed she was just 10 years old. 

The girl told police that her siblings were being held against their will and “some were chained.” When cops entered the Turpin home, they discovered “horrific” conditions. “If you can imagine being a 10-year-old and being chained to a bed, being malnourished and the injuries associated with that…I would call that torture,” Riverside County Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Fellows told reporters at a press conference.

When asked if there’s any hope for recovery for these children, Dr. Ludwig replied, “As long as there is life there is hope.” She added, “So much will depend on the severity of damage done to the children, and at what point in their lives this torture was carried out and for how long. The type of treatment the children receive and their inner resiliency will also obviously play a major role in their individual recovery as well.” At the same time, however, the siblings will probably experience some pretty intense fallout. 

“The children will most likely suffer from PTSD, they could have some major social, emotional, physical, and intellectual issues as a result of the abuse,” Dr. Ludwig told us. “The ability to trust and love others may also be severely compromised. But again, a lot will depend on the type of treatment they receive from here on in.” The kids’ recovery also depends on their age, according to Dr. Lieberman. 

“The younger children will have a better chance of recovery than the older ones because they will have spent fewer years under these conditions. All of them need long-term intensive psychotherapy,” she said. On top of that, issues such as depression are not off the table either. “All 13 children will have psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, and inability to trust,” Dr. Lieberman explained. “They may also have inherited a genetic predisposition to the same psychosis as their parents. Physically they will have problems due to malnutrition, being chained in a position that deprives certain parts of their body of enough oxygenated blood, and other medical problems from not getting proper medical treatment.”

 Tell us, HollywoodLifers — can you believe parents would do this to their children? Do you think these experts have shed some light on the situation?

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