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The seven adult children of David and Louise Turpin, the Perris couple accused in a torture and child cruelty case, didn’t get an education at the Turpins’ home school, a prosecutor said Friday, May 18, revealing for the first time why David Turpin had been charged with eight counts of perjury related to documents he filed with the state Department of Education.
The disclosure came as Turpins’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender David J. Macher, unsuccessfully sought to have him tried on the charges separately from other accusations related to the raising of the couple’s 13 children that include torture, false imprisonment, child abuse and cruelty to a dependent adult.
Authorities say the Turpins shackled, starved and neglected all but the youngest of their 13 children, malnourishing them so much that some have stunted mental and physical development. The Turpins have pleaded not guilty.
For eight school years, from 2010-11 to 2017-18, David Turpin filed Private School Affidavits with the state affirming under penalty of perjury that he was operating a home school and giving the students – all the couple’s children – a full-time education.
Turpin, as principal, operated City Day School in Murrieta and then Sandcastle Day School when the family moved to Perris in 2014. Over the years, he listed as many as nine students and as few as five students in grades 1 through 12.
Macher said in his motion that the perjury charges were dissimilar from the other charges and by law should be dismissed or tried separately.
“Regarding education, if there is a falsehood, it’s not part of an atmosphere. It’s simply a misstatement written in a document,” Macher told Judge Bernard J. Schwartz in a hearing in Superior Court in Riverside.
“As I understand, the opposition argues that a lack of education leads to dependent adults. I disagree. A gentleman named Abraham Lincoln spent less than 12 months of his life in a classroom, and he did rather well for himself,” Macher said.
Deputy District Attorney Kevin Beecham disagreed.
“Abraham Lincoln was educated,” Beecham told Schwartz. “What’s alleged here is that there are seven dependent adults that were not educated, not home schooled, didn’t go to school. That is the atmosphere that led to dependence. Based on that, there is a connection in crimes.”
Later, outside court, Beecham declined to say how prosecutors knew the adults didn’t receive an education.
Schwartz ruled that the perjury charges would remain attached to the others but said Macher could revisit the issue after the preliminary hearing.
“The theory here is that the fact that the reported falsity prevented the Department of Education from coming in, taking the children … to school and checking on their well being. And as a result there was what has been described as a prolonged and neglectful environment,” Schwartz said.
Turpin pleaded not guilty to the perjury charges Friday.
A message was left with the Department of Education on Friday seeking comment.
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Also Friday, attorneys confirmed that the preliminary hearing will be held June 20. There, a judge will rule whether there is sufficient evidence to hold the Turpins for trial. The standard of proof at a preliminary hearing is introducing enough evidence to justify a belief that a crime occurred and the defendant committed it, whereas a conviction at trial requires evidence that a beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred and the defendant was responsible.
Riverside County sheriff’s deputies and investigators are expected to testify at the preliminary hearing, but the children described as victims are not.
The children, whose names all begin with the letter J, ranged in age from 2 to 29 at the time of their parents’ Jan. 14 arrests. They are in the care of the Riverside County Department of Social Services and the county Public Guardian.