When we think of monsters we think of them as something exotic, or foreign. We believe that they will never appear within our domain. Today, the modern monster is usually someone who goes on a killing spree with the use of a firearm, or someone that causes great physical or mental suffering via torture or rape. When this happens, the attention of the whole nation is focused on the act. This in turn influences our society via politics and the mainstream media. One such case that has recently affected our local area, the Inland Empire, was the Turpin Case that occured in Perris, CA. On January 14, 2018, the Turpin couple were arrested for child endangerment, and torture. Three days later, authorities had uncovered evidence which included first hand accounts of the children themselves through journals. By January 20th 2018, the Turpin case had made national headlines, and the country was in a state of disbelief and shock.
It is believed that the Turpin children have been subjected to torture for more than a decade. The children ranged from an infant to several young adults. There were 13 of them in total. Interesting enough, the two family dogs were kept in pristine conditions while the children were not.
While the family was living in Perris, CA, the two parents, David, and Louise Turpin would physically, and mentally torture their children via beatings, being shackled for hours, starved, and enticed with either food or toys. According to Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin, “the children were forced to sleep during the day and were kept awake during the night.” It appeared that they followed schedule. Because of these conditions, the children suffered from neuropathy, and were cognitively impaired. They also seemed to lack general knowledge of the world around them, like knowing what the Police is or what Medication is. Bizarre rules were imposed on the children for they could only bathe once a year, and when washing their hands they were not supposed to get their wrists wet, if they do they will be punished severely usually through shackling to the bed. Due to starvation the children took a frail, and malnourished appearance making them look younger than they were. Police assume that all of the children were below the age of 18, but 7 of them were actually young adults. The oldest child was 29, and weighed only 82 pounds. David and Louise Turpin have been charged with 12 counts of torture despite having 13 children in captivity. This is because their youngest child, an infant wasn’t shown to be in poor conditions, and seemed to be well fed.
It is hard to comprehend as to why someone would want to cause harm to their own children. Something from the past must have cause David, and Louise to cause harm to their children. It can be assumed that something from their past has enabled them to do this. Police evidence also indicates that the torturing of the children was increasing as time went by, so something must have indoctrinated them, and has been influencing them for the past decade or so. In an ABC News video, the sister of Louise Turpin, Teresa Robinette explains her experiences that she’s had with the Turpin family while living with them in their Fort Worth home. It is here were the abuse of the children began to take root although it is very mild, and can be passed on as very strict parenting. Louise, Teresa, and her other sister were Pentecostals, a conservative group of Christians, and were allowed to be sexually abused by wealthy paedophile by their own Mother. This was due to financial problems. Louise was desperate to escape the clutches of the sexual predator so she ran away from home once she started to date David at the age of 16. David was 22 years old at this time. They then fled to Texas, and lived in Fort Worth. While here, David worked as an Engineer for Lockheed Martin giving him a six figure salary. “She always had nice homes and the nice cars. They were the most perfect family I ever had seen. She was funny, like you know, like I could joke with her. I could joke with David.”( Teresa Robinette, 60 minutes). David, and Louise had a nice house, and nice cars, and Louise’s sisters were under the impression that she was living in a fairytale. Teresa seemed to have a good relationship with both her sister, and David. As David, and Louise began to have children, they seem to have grown more distant.
When Teresa decided to spend her summer with them. It was here that she began to see, and experience abnormal things. For example, the eldest daughter was constantly bound to her room, and was required to stay for there for most of the time. It appeared that the only time she was outside her room was during meals. Before eating her meal, she had to request permission from her parents while smiling. Just like the eldest daughter, Teresa was subjected to unusual rules. She wasn’t able to able to have any visitors over nor have people know of her home location. She couldn’t even socialize. On top of that, her privacy was compromised whenever she took a shower. David, and Louise would be in the bathroom with her. Teresa later found out that Louise had developed a hybrid religion of some sort. It was influenced by Witchcraft, Mormonism, and Catholicism all of which deviate from Pentecostalism. David, and Louise have essentially lost the trust of the Pentecostal Church. This lost of trust can be attributed to Louise’s sexual abuse. Both her Mother, and the wealthy paedophile were Pentecostals, and this might have caused distance between Louise, and the religion. David’s love for Louise has also cause him to despise the religion.
With all the erratic beliefs that their hybrid religion contained, it is clear that they have been heavily brainwashed on what is acceptable, and what is not. The effects on this are shown on how they raised their children. The effects become clearer as time went by. What started off as strict parenting eventually led up to abuse, and torture. Riverside County Investigators have come to the conclusion that the more kids they had, the more abusive they were:
“It was at the Rio Vista property where the abusive rituals began, prosecutors say. They had eight children during the 10 years they lived there, withdrawing further into their own world with each passing year.”
While the Fort Worth home only showed signs of unsanitary conditions, the Rio Vista home showed signs of captivity, and abuse. One room contained bunk beds while the other emulated a classroom, the classroom contained religious material that is associated with Conspiracy Theorists. There was also a bed with a rope tied to it. The Murrieta home (which has received little media coverage) showed explicit signs of captivity and inhumane conditions. It is here that neighbors actually realize that something was wrong with the family. Multiple neighbors had seen strange events, but they never bother to inquired on them. Billy Lambert, half brother of Louise expressed his disappointment by saying, “I’m disappointed at the neighbours. 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? There was another neighbour that came forward that said that two of the older boys were digging in the trash cans at night. How is that not a red flag?”(Lambert, news.com.au). There were multiple instances were people could of step in, and confronted the parents going back as far as the time that the family lived in Fort Worth. Most people who were suspicious tended to fall under the assumption that the parents were taking care of mentally disabled kids as noted by Murrieta neighbor Mike Clifford. In the Perris home there was little suspicion from the neighbors, and things seemingly went back to the Fort Worth home conditions. But in reality, the conditions have worsened. Police found have found copious amount of evidence that includes journals that the children have written in as well as chains that proved that the severity of the abuse has been increasing as time went by.
We can finally piece everything together by using Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Seven Theses on Monster Culture. We now can explain why the Turpin couple committed the abuse, and predict the effects that they will have on society. Cohen’s Monster Theory allows us to categorize, and analyze virtually anything as a monster. As Cohen puts it himself:
“The contributors to Monster Theory consider beasts, demons, freaks and fiends as symbolic expressions of cultural unease that pervade a society and shape its collective behavior. Through a historical sampling of monsters, these essays argue that our fascination for the monstrous testifies to our continued desire to explore difference and prohibition.”
To put things into perspective, a mere misconception on a group of people can result in the entire people being label as monsters. The cultural beliefs of society during a certain time period determines what a Monster is. Today’s Monsters tend to be Artificial Intelligence, and people who cause harm through mass killings, sexual assault, or torturing. This puts David, and Louise Turpin in the torture category alongside other Monsters such as ISIS or the North Korean Government who torture people on a regular basis.
Theses Six, and Seven do a good job at identifying David, and Louise as Monsters because these two theses focus on why a something wants to be a Monster, and what events lead that something to become a Monster. As mentioned earlier, Louise was sexually assaulted, and this has now created anger in her, and in David as well. This sort of phenomena is most common with serial killers, and mass shooters. They were harmed early in their lives, and they now seek to cause harm to others as a means of redemption or quenching their anger. This provides happiness to them. In much more simpler terms, when someone cuts you off in traffic, you get a strong urge of causing a lot of pain to the person who cut you off. However you are not able to do this so you simply hold in the anger. Something must have enabled David, and Louise to keep up with their torturing, and that is their hybrid religion. This might sound crazy, but they could have simply killed their children, and live peacefully by themselves, but instead they chose to keep their children. The hybrid religion has been sustaining their title as Monsters. They were probably under the assumption that they had to raise their children in a certain way, and it was through the imposement of brutal living conditions. In short, the sexual abuse has triggered the birth of the Monster while the hybrid religion kept the Monster well and alive.
Because this has happened recently, we cannot see any significant influence that this case has had on society. All there is, is a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode called “The Book of Esther which is heavily influenced on the Turpin case.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Culture (Seven Theses). 1996.
O’Neill, Marnie. “Turpin House of Horrors Parents Unrecognisable in New Pics.” NewsComAu, 6 Aug. 2018, http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/house-of-horrors-parents-david-and-louise-turpin-as-youve-never-seen-them/news-story/5e3f3bb735ae0c3415b817f17ad1afd2.
Styles, Ruth. “Neighbor Says Turpin Children Marched in Circles for Hours.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 17 Jan. 2018, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5276835/Neighbor-says-Turpin-children-marched-circles-hours.html.
Esquivel, Paloma. “Horrific Details Emerge as Parents Accused of Holding 13 Kids Captive Are Charged with Torture.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 19 Jan. 2018, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-perris-couple-children-endangered-20180118-story.html.