Apr 07, 2022
25 mins read
Can you imagine, in your mind, a large family, over a dozen people in total, standing in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland, all wearing matching Disney merchandise, smiling like they are having the time of their lives. Now imagine that this was one of the only days these children have ever seen the outside world.
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Welcome to The Secret Sits, I’m your host John Dodson. Join us every Thursday as we uncover the Secrets behind the world’s most fascinating true crime cases. You can find all episodes of The Secret Sits for free on Apple Podcast, Spotify or where ever you get your podcasts. And if you like what you are hearing, reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook @The Secret Sits Podcast or on Twitter @SecretSitsPod. Now, on with our story.
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The Church of God, a Pentecostal church in Princeton, West Virginia is where 17-year-old David Turpin first fell in love with 10-year-old Louise Robinette. The two would hold hands during church service, secretly of course, so that no one could see them doing this. And the two kept their childhood relationship a secret until two years later when the now 12 year old Louise declared to her grandmother that she would marry David Turpin one day and together they would have 12 children.
The Turpin family had a long and torrid past, David’s grandfather, the late Reverend King Turpin jr. married a young girl and the couple started having babies. The couple produced 6 babies together and then Nellie Turpin gave birth to the couple’s twins and died during child birth. Just 6 months later Reverend Turpin would marry his children’s nurse, Bertha Lee Church. But how he procured this new bride was quite unusual, the Reverend traded Bertha’s father a Studebaker car for her, very transactional. But then over the next 18 years Bertha and King had eleven more children, bringing his total to 19.
King Turpin was born in 1903 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was brough up by his brutal father, who beat King and his sister Minnie for any petty grievance. In 1915, the Tennessee state welfare office stepped in and placed the siblings into separate orphanages within the state. When King turned 18 years old, he moved to Knoxville, Tennessee and began work in a local cotton mill. While attending church services in Lynch, Kentucky, King heard a mystical voice speak to him. The voice shouted at him, “It’s a commin!, It’s a commin!” In this moment of hearing these voices, the holy ghost entered into King’s body and the young man began speaking in tongues.
It was after this incident when King began to preach, he would take his banjo down into the coal mines and peach the word and sing Pentecostal gospel music to the working miners. King and his growing brood of children then moved to Arizona. This is when King began believing in more and more radical Pentecostal teachings. The sect of the religion King had joined believed that the Bible is the literal direct word of God. The church believes speaking in tongues is manifested through a relationship with the holy ghost. And King would regularly speak in tongues during services, claiming that the holy ghost had taken over his body.
In 1932, the Reverend King Turpin jr moved his family to West Virginia, this would be where his first wife Nellie would die during the birth of the couple’s twins and where he would then immediately marry the children’s nurse, Bertha Lee Church. The couple’s first child of their own would-be James Randolph Turpin. Jim, as he would be called, grew up in this strictly religious house, which shaped his entire life and the lives of everyone in our story today.
In June of 1955, Jim married his girlfriend, 17-year-old Betty Jean Rose and the couple settled down in Princeton, West Virginia. Princeton is a small town sat right in the middle of Appalachia, it has been given the nickname The Jewel of the South and the Heart of Mercer County. The town had been built on the coal industry, which meant mines and railroads. Three years after their wedding, the couple was blessed with their first child, a boy they would name James Randolph and then three years after this came their second, also a boy and this one was called David Allen. The boys would summer with their grandparents in Ohio and the Reverend King Turpin jr would teach the boys about the church and he would speak in tongues in front of the boys. While living in Princeton, the Turpin family attended the Princeton Church of God on Oliver Avenue and the adults in the family became quite close friends with Allen “Wayne” Robinette and his wife, Phyllis Robinette. This couple had three daughters of their own, Louise, Elizabeth and Teresa.
Louise Robinette’s maternal grandfather was John Thomas Taylor, he was tall and handsome and he had left his life long home in West Virginia to fight in WWII. He was a gunner in the Army’s 3rd armored division. For his time in service John Thomas would be awarded a Silver Star, five Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and a Good Conduct Medal. When the tall handsome young man arrived back in his small West Virginia town, he was a local hero. In need of a job, he started working in the coal mines. But he hated working down in the mines and so he began to leverage his new found popularity as a war hero for his benefit. John soon became a lobbyist for the American Legion and he made a lot of money assisting real estate developers overturn the new Veterans’ Emergency Housing Program. The Veterans’ Emergency Housing Program was developed under Harry S Truman to assist returning war veterans in getting affordable housing when they returned from war.
John Taylor was a war veteran, however; he was making all of his money by fighting against veterans’ benefits. John Taylor then opened the one and only Shell gas station in the county. This mad him very wealthy. The Shell station on Athens Road was well known to everyone in the county, it was, after all, the only place to fill up for miles and miles. And John Taylor loved tending to his customers himself, you can pull up to a pump and John Taylor would clean your window, check your oil and pump as much 19 cents a gallon gas as you needed. But some customers received things they did not ask for, not want. As women paid the man for services and products, his hands or fingers would linger and caress when they were not welcome. Females who had been employees at the gas station claimed that John Taylor would molest them while they worked for the man.
Though some in town knew of these rumors about John Taylor, he was still considered an upstanding member of the church and a wealthy pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, however; these were not rumors and this legendary war hero was at home molesting his own daughter Phyllis. When Phyllis turned 17 years of age, she married Allen “Wayne” Robinette, this was her escape from the life of abuse suffered at her father’s fingertips. Nine moths after the wedding, May 24th 1968, Louise Ann was born.
David Turpin began attending Glenwood Junior High in 1974. Even though David was young, he already stood at six feet tall and he loomed over all of his classmates, he countered this by dressing very conservatively. In 1976 David moved on to High School and he joined the Bible club, he became the club’s treasurer and he participated is club activities such as; bell ringing of the Salvation Army, hosting a dinner for an underprivileged family and having a Christmas party. By David’s senior year he had decided that he intended on becoming an engineer and so he joined the science club as well. David had also become a big fan of the TV show Star Trek, he was fascinated by the character Spock, and he even had his hair cut into a similar fashion as the character on the screen. David graduated from Princeton High School in 1979 with a GPA of 95.7 and he was awarded a scholarship for electrical engineering at Virginia Tech.
It was around this time, right after graduation, now 17 years of age, when David first became attracted to the then 10-year-old Louise Robinette. The two had known each other for practically their entire lives, their parents were friends and they attended church together every week. David had held Louise when she was just a small helpless baby.
Louise grew up in a small house at 102 B Ray Street, she was from the Taylor family, one of the wealthiest and most respected families in the county. Her grandfather John Taylor owned the local Shell gas station and her uncles Eugene and Glenn both had successful and lucrative businesses of their own. Louise turned 10 years old in 1978 and her parents threw her a birthday party, which was attended by her Papaw John Taylor. Now remember that John Taylor had molested his daughter Phyllis her entire life, this had left the woman very distant to her own children and she showed almost no interest in being a mother herself, she left Louise to raise her new baby sister Elizabeth almost on her own. But Louise was a very protective sister, when their parents would fight, Louise would shelter the young Elizabeth from the fray, she would cover her ears so she would not hear the fighting or crashing, she just wanted to be a protector.
But Louise could not protect herself from what her mother allowed to take place. Allen and Phyllis did not have as much money as Phyllis would have liked, but she knew a way to get more money. Phyllis would drive the young Louise to John Taylor’s house, she was a tiny child and this was Phyllis’ own father, Louise’s grandfather, and John Taylor would take the small girl into the house for some quote tight hugs end quote. When he was done, he would walk the small child back out to her mother, who just sat waiting in the car and John Taylor would give Phyllis some cash. This would begin a cycle which would be perpetrated through out Louise’s childhood. Mom needs money, mom takes her own daughter to be raped by her grandfather, then mom gets paid for providing the victim. Over and over and over again.
In 1982 Mary Louise Taylor came home one day and as she opened the front door to her house she encountered her, then 58-year-old husband John Taylor, raping a then 14-year-old Louise on their living room couch. Mary flew into a rage and chased her husband out of the house while holding a frying pan, she filed for divorce within a few days. This being a small town and all, this incident was kept quiet and the police were never involved. They did not want to ruin the family name after all.
One year after this incident is when the 15-year-old Louise and the now 22-year-old David began their official secret relationship. Louise, being a 15-year-old was ecstatic about the relationship, she told her mother Phyllis, who agreed that they should keep this as a little secret from her father for the time being, but Phyllis was very excited about this courtship. And Louise told her little sister Elizabeth, she told Elizabeth that David was going to be a successful engineer and that he would make plenty of money and that he would be able to afford anything she ever dreamed of, she also told Elizabeth about her plans to have 12 children.
David was attending his first year at Virginia Tech where he was majoring in electrical engineering. On the weekend, David, would drive home from college to secretly spend time with his underage girlfriend, carefully making sure that his own father did not find out that the two had become much more than church friends.
David graduated with his degree in 1984, he had earned the Marshall Hahn Engineering Scholarship twice, in both his junior and senior years. After graduation David began the dreaded job search that every college graduate must undertake, unless you are poached by a company before graduation. At the same time, Louise is beginning her sophomore year at Princeton High School. Elizabeth describes her older sister, at this time in their lives, as headstrong and she says that Louise’s ambiance of the shy, dutiful girl, was all just part of the act, to get things the way she wanted.
David was quickly offered a job working for the United States defense contractor General Dynamics. David then asked Louise to run away and elope with him, he could afford to buy her anything her heart desired. The job was located in Fort Worth, Texas, which should be plenty enough space for the young Louise to escape her home town, and to escape her grandfather John Taylor, who had continued to rape Louise and even escalated the frequency since his divorce. Phyllis was now bringing all three of her young daughters to her father. Papaw would give tight hugs to all three girls, but when Louise could, she would substitute herself in for her sisters when possible.
After one last Christmas spent at home as a child, Louise began hatching a plan to run off with her tall, lanky and secret fiancée. She had only discussed leaving with her sister Elizabeth and a friend from school, both had been sworn to secrecy. When the next morning arrived, Louise said goodbye to her family and headed off to school, just like any other day. Now, what I am going to tell you about next, you are just simply not going to believe. Well, let me tell you this first. As the next events took place, I would like for you to keep in mind that Farris Bueller’s Day Off had NOT come out yet, when these events took place.
The plan to get Louise out of school so the couple could run away to elope was for David to come to the school and pretend to be her father and sign her out for the day. David had a fake mustache and a large cowboy hat. He parked out in front of the main entrance, walked right inside and declared that he was Allen Robinette and Louise needed to leave with him immediately. I mean wow, it is almost exactly like Farris Bueller’s Day Off. And guess what happened next? The school administration, just signed her out and she left school and the couple traveled 1100 miles from West Virginia to Fort Worth, Texas.
That afternoon, Louise did not arrive home on the school bus, so Phyllis thought, ok I guess she missed the bus and promptly hopped in her car and drove down to the school to get her daughter. But, when she arrived, she was told that her husband, Louise’s father had signed her out of school for the day. Phyllis called Allen to ask and he said he had not signed Louise out of school for the day, that night the couple went to the police station to report Louise missing.
There was no word from their daughter in the following days, but a police officer in Fort Worth eventually located the runaway teen and made her call her house to tell her parents that she was ok. Phyllis was pissed and wanted to press charges against David, even though she had already known about the relationship taking place behind her husband’s back. When the Turpin family found out about what was going on, they talked to the Robinette’s to beg them not to press charges against David, it would ruin his life and prospects of a future career. Louise’s father Allen was the first to come around to an amiable agreement. He proposed that they let the two quietly get married, as a man of devout faith and an evangelical preacher, he thought a married life would be better then the two living a life of sin. He called his daughter and told her, “You are now an adult and you can take care of yourself. If this is what you want, you go for it.” He then gave written permission for the marriage to take place.
The wedding took place on February 11th, 1985 in a small church just 30 minutes from Princeton, West Virginia. It was a small wedding ceremony, with only close family members in attendance. Louise wore a conservative dress which was calf-length, it had a high neckline and long puffy sleeves, I would say for 1985, she was doing ok. David wore a poorly fitting brown suite with a stripped neck tie. Immediately following the ceremony, the new couple left to return to Fort Worth, Texas and to create their new lives together.
General Dynamics was paying David pretty well and she established a pretty good life in Texas, in fact she worked really had to separate herself from her former town and former friends and acquaintances. Two people back home, who Louise did miss and worry about were her two sisters, Elizabeth was now 8 and Teresa was 3. One night Elizabeth was in her room asleep when she woke up and heard her mother speaking on the phone, she thought that it was strange so she went and woke up her dad. Allen picked up the phone and demanded to know who she was talking to, Phyllis claimed it was her father, but Allen knew she was lying. After their argument became over boiled, Phyliss called her dad John Taylor, who rushed over to the house and proceeded to throw Allen out of his own house. Allen filed for a divorce the very next morning.
Allen and Phyllis splitting up did not prove to be a good thing for Elizabeth and Teresa. With Allen absent, John Taylor began spending more and more of his free time at the house on B Ray Street. Phyllis, in constant need for money, would allow her father to sexually abuse her daughters anytime he wanted to. Teresa remembers, “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.’ He would hand my mom money, and he thought that made it ok.”
A while after this, Phyllis became pregnant by her new boyfriend, his name was Billy Lambert and he got along well with Elizabeth and Teresa. Just days before Billy and Phyllis’ wedding, Billy suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage while driving and his car sailed off of a cliff, Billy was killed instantly. Several months later, Phyllis gave birth and named the baby, Billy jr.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon was one of the US military’s most high-tech supersonic jet fighters and David Turpin was one of its computer engineers. This high paying government contract job did afford David and Louise the lavish lifestyle they had dreamed of. They eat at the most fabulous restaurants in town and they discovered a new passion, attending Wild West stunt shows at the historic Fort Worth Stockyards.
And then in 1987 the couple moved to Brea, California for David’s job. This is an area close to Los Angeles and the couple rented a modest 2 bedroom. Louise would write letters home, telling everyone about her amazing life, their beautiful new home and about their frequent trips to Disneyland.
Back home in West Virginia, Louise’s mother Phyllis is not doing well after the sudden death of her new fiancée. As a result, Phyllis started participating in sex work to make money. She also began dating the school custodian, David Lee and over the next 4 years she would have two more babies with David Lee and then the couple split and that was that.
In 1987, it finally happened, Louise Turpin was finally pregnant with the first of what she hoped would be her 12 babies. On July 28th 1988, Louise gave birth to a small baby girl who was named Jennifer Dawn. For Christmas that year, David paid for Louise’s family to come to California to meet the new baby. Teresa was excited because she had never gone anywhere before. The family took the Amtrak train all the way across the country. While staying in California during the trip, David and Louise took her family to Disneyland, Universal Studios and they even went to see the Hollywood sign, it was all very exciting for Teresa and Elizabeth, who were use to their small town in West Virginia.
When Jennifer Dawn turned 2, David’s job was transferred back to Fort Worth, Texas. And with this came a pay increase and David is now making six figures in his job at Lockheed Martin. After the couple moved back to Texas with their new bundle of joy, they continued having Louise’s family make annual trips to see them in Texas. David paid for everything, even airfare. And while the family was in town, they were treated to David and Louise’s lavish lifestyle, and trips to Six Flags. Everyone was quite impressed with the couple.
Baby number two arrived on February 3rd, 1992; he was named Joshua David. This was Louise’s idea, to name all of their babies with Biblical names which start with the letter J. A short while after Joshua was born, David and Louise filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy. Even though David was making great money, the couple had no self-control and they had been living this lavish lifestyle that even they could not keep up with fiscally. But Louise did not want to admit that there were any problems, so she continued bragging to her family and she continued the annual trips, during which she continued to pay for everything.
By this time Louise’s mother Phyllis as well as her two sisters Elizabeth and Teresa were living in a homeless shelter in Tennessee, all the while her father Allen was now one of the Mercer County commissioners. In July of 1993, Louise once again flew her family down to Texas for a vacation and she insisted on paying for everything, not that there was an option, these family members were all in a homeless shelter, they could not afford luxury vacations.
November 3rd, 1993 saw the birth of baby number 3, another girl, this one’s biblical J name would be Jessica Louise. In February of 1994, Jennifer Turpin would begin the first grade at Meadowcreek Elementary School. Children at this age are sometimes kind, but mostly they are fighting for their position in what will become the school ranking order for the rest of their lives. Jennifer did not start out very well, she looked very skinny and frail, she also had very poor personal hygiene. She wore a purple and white shirt and overalls to school, every day. I mean every single day, it was the only cloths she wore to school and they were never washed, she was always dirty, she was still missing her two front teeth and she would use a Hershey’s wrapper to tie her hair back.
In December of 1995 came baby number 4, another boy, this one would be called Jonathan Wayne. David and Louise Turpin decided to take a trip back home to West Virginia to see family, and to show off their new brood. They insisted on paying for everything while there. Some family members say that this is when they started noticing strange things about the children, they all wore the exact same identical outfits all the way down to their shoes, and everywhere they went they walked in a straight line, like military cadets. Elizabeth was now out of the homeless shelter and attending Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. She asked if she could come down to Fort Worth with David and Louise to spend the summer with them and she could spend time with her nieces and nephews.
As the entire family was driving back to Texas, David announced that they were going to take a detour and stop in Louisiana to gamble. This simply shocked Elizabeth, they were raised in an extremely strict Christian household and gambling was a sin, she knew that. David parked in the casino parking structure and he and Louise went off to the casino, leaving Elizabeth in the van with the 4 children. Several hours later, after obviously losing quite a bit of money, the couple returned, Louise angry that David had ended her losing gambling streak before she was ready.
This situation seemed strange, but it had been a while since Elizabeth had spent significant amounts of time with her big sister, so she let it slide. They arrived at 3225 Roddy Drive in Texas and Elizabeth and Louise began catching up and spending time together, doing leisurely activities and just enjoying life. It was also during this time that Elizabeth began seeing the strange and extremely strict way she was raising her small children. The children had to ask for permission to use the bathroom, they had to ask permission to eat and permission was not all that was required for the children to have access to food, there was a strange almost ritual which would happen at dinner time. The children were called down to eat, one at a time. The child had to look Mother in the eyes and smile, they would have to stand there, smiling until their mother felt the need to return the smile, then they could sit at the table, after sitting they would have to wait for permission to then begin eating. They would then be sent back up to their room.
As much as Elizabeth was there to be with her family, she had almost no contact with her nieces and nephews. The children were confined to their bedrooms and they could not have any contact with their aunt unless Louise was present. The 19-year-old Elizabeth decided to get a job while in Texas for the summer. Louise would drive her to and from work and she then began asserting rules over Elizabeth, like she did to her own children. Elizabeth was not allowed to have any friends; she could not use the land line in the house and she could not tell anyone that she was staying in the house. Elizabeth described the dynamic between the couple as dramatic, Louise would decide if and when a punishment was required for one of the children and then David was instructed to carry out said punishment. David had also began making very inappropriate comments to Elizabeth, he would tell her how he had, had the hots for Louise since she was 10 years old and one day while Elizabeth was taking a shower, Louise picked the bathroom door lock with a hanger and she and David entered the bathroom and watched her shower. This would become the norm in the house, Elizabeth showered and her older sister and brother-in-law would barge into the bathroom to watch, they would tell her she was beautiful and they would laugh at her embarrassment, David never physically touched Elizabeth, she would like to point out.
The summer was dying down and Louise dropped Elizabeth off at work and just left her there, she never came to pick her up at the end of her shift and Elizbeth kept calling Louise over and over, but she refused to even answer the phone. Finally, Elizabeth slept on a bench outside of the Walmart. Elizabeth spent the next 3 nights sleeping outside until she finally threatened to call the police, so Louise allowed her to go back to the house and collect her belongings before she moved back to Tennessee.
And just as Elizabeth left the Turpin house, this is where I will leave you for this week. David and Louise Turpin now have 4 children and one more on the way, but what kind of life will these children have to endure? Next week, in the Turpin Family Case; evictions, lies, Elvis and much more, believe me this story is only just getting started.
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