A mother living in the same California town as the House of Horrors family has revealed that she and her two children were held captive in a garage for six months by her partner until she finally escaped.
Laura Cowan, who now works as a domestic violence advocate, said she was rescued from captivity after she slipped a letter begging for help to a post office clerk.
Cowan, now 60, said ‘it was deja vu all over’ again when she saw the horrific story about David and Louise Turpin, who were recently accused of torture for allegedly keeping their 13 children trapped in a ‘house of horrors’.
Laura Cowan (left) claims she was living in the same California town as the House of Horrors family when she and her two kids were held captive in a garage for six months by her partner, Mansa Musa Muhummed (right in 1999 after his arrest)
Cowan, now 60, said ‘it was deja vu all over’ again when she saw the horrific story about David and Louise Turpin, who were recently accused of torture for allegedly keeping their 13 children trapped in a ‘house of horrors’. Cowan now hosts her own radio show in Ohio
‘It’s similar to my own story: 13 children being held captive like that, in the same location in Perris, and also the same sheriff’s department that rescued us, rescued them,’ Cowan told Fox 8.
Cowan recalled the terrifying six months of abuse that she underwent beginning in April 1998 when she was dating a man by the name of Mansa Musa Muhummed.
Muhummed had 13 children and Cowan had two.
‘He took me and my children and he locked us up in a garage for over six months,’ she told the station.
In 2008, Cowan and Muhummed’s other two wives, along with most of their children told a jury countless stories of torture and starvation that they kept to themselves for years.
They described being beaten, strung up by their feet and forced to eat vomit and feces.
Muhummed, whose given name was Richard Boddie, initially pleaded not guilty to charges of torturing seven of the children, abusing 12 of them and falsely imprisoning two wives.
Standing just 4-foot-6 and weighing about 98 pounds, Sharon Boddie told jurors at the time that she had grown and gained weight since her father was arrested nine years ago and the children were sent to foster or group homes.
But she still has scars from beatings and burns. She said she was taken out of school in second grade because she kept running away and teachers no longer wanted her there because she stole other children’s lunches.
‘I’d go like a week without eating, not even water,’ she said in a flat, unemotional voice. She said she would be beaten when she tried to steal food from the refrigerator.
One son caught sneaking food testified in 2008 that he was forced to eat what he took until he regurgitated.
Cowan (pictured) recalled the terrifying six months of abuse that she underwent beginning in April 1998 when she was dating Muhummed. Cowan is now a domestic violence advocate
In 2008, Cowan and Muhummed’s other two wives, along with most of their 19 children told a jury countless stories of torture and starvation that they kept to themselves for years. Muhummed is pictured (left in court in 2008) and (right in 2009)
Then he was forced to eat his vomit. Another daughter said she was ordered to hand feed her father while she was denied food.
Doctors said the children were extremely malnourished when they were finally rescued. A 19-year-old daughter, at the time, was 4-foot-1 and weighed 56 pounds.
Prosecutor Julie Baldwin, said at the time that it was ‘the worst case we’ve ever heard of’.
After moving to rural Riverside County, they lived for about three years in a van at a Muslim campground, Sharon Boddie testified at Muhummed’s trial.
The van had no running water or gas for cooking. Muhummed had no known occupation.
The children testified that Muhummed forced them to beat each other when he wasn’t doing the hitting.
At the time, Muhummed told authorities he believed his Muslim religion allowed him to have multiple wives.
Marva Lewis Barfield, the first of Muhummed’s three wives and mother of 14 of his children, testified in 2008 that she beat some of her children with a boat oar at his instructions because she feared he would kill her if she disobeyed.
Barfield said she married him when she was 18 and that she was repeatedly beaten and threatened with death during 26 years of marriage.
She was later jailed for 17 months in the case and pleaded guilty to one count of child endangerment as part of a plea bargain to testify against Muhummed.
Cowan testified at the time that Muhummed took control of her bank accounts and finances. She and other members of the family also collected public assistance.
It was Cowan who finally got the attention of authorities when Muhummed took her with him to a post office to pick up a certified package and she slipped a 13-page letter about the abuse to a postal clerk.
Cowan recently recalled her escape after giving the letter to the postal worker.
‘She looked at me and I looked at her and I was shaking, and I reached under my dress, I pulled my dress up in front of her and I pulled that letter out and I put it on the counter,’ Cowan told Fox 8 on Monday.
‘The next day, she got help for us. It went to the sheriff’s department and they came and rescued us,’ she said.
The letter was sent to the county social services agency and to sheriff’s deputies, who found the family living in a filthy garage in a gated community.
In 2016, eight of the abused children (pictured), along with Cowan, appeared on an episode of Dr Phil
‘I remember a time my dad took a boat paddle and just cracked me straight across the head,’ Muhummed’s daughter, Crystal (left) recalled. Muhummed’s other daughter, Likesha (right), said that she was ‘raped by my father on a daily basis for 12 years’
‘Our living conditions were like a concentration camp. We were on complete lockdown. The doors were locked, the windows were locked. I wasn’t even allowed to go to school,’ a now-adult Michael (pictured) recalled of the abuse
Michael’s brother, Delmarcus (pictured), said on Dr Phil that Muhummed ‘would lock us in the basement for days at a time’. ‘He would beat us,’ he added
At the time, Cowan presented authorities with tapes she secretly recorded of some beatings.
Sharon Boddie testified that social workers had checked on their welfare before, but her father put food boxes in cupboards before they arrived and the children were taught to lie. The atrocities went undetected by social service agencies.
‘I told them everything was OK because my dad had coached us what to say,’ she recalled in 2008. ‘I’d say my dad treated us really good — that he was the best parent in the world.’
When they were removed from his Muhummed’s home, most of the children said they could not read or write and had not been to school.
The brothers and sisters said they were denied use of a bathroom and could not bathe for weeks at a time or wash their clothes. Sometimes, Boddie took them in the yard and hosed them down.
Boddie said at the time that she was strung upside down by her feet and left in a dark basement for hours at a time.
Many of the children were unwilling to talk to authorities when their father was first arrested in 1999.
Even when her father was handcuffed to a car outside their home, Boddie wouldn’t speak because she feared he wouldn’t go to jail.
She said he once waved a gun around and said: ‘I can kill all of you and nobody will ever know.’
Boddie said at the time that she decided to tell her story when her father was behind bars and she realized she was ‘finally going to have a life’.
Muhummed was sentenced to seven life sentences in 2009 after being convicted of the abuse charges.
In 2016, eight of the abused children, along with Cowan, appeared on an episode of Dr Phil.
‘Our living conditions were like a concentration camp. We were on complete lockdown. The doors were locked, the windows were locked. I wasn’t even allowed to go to school,’ a now-adult Michael recalled of the abuse.
‘All I knew was abuse,’ Michael added.
Michael’s brother, Delmarcus, said on Dr Phil that Muhummed ‘would lock us in the basement for days at a time’.
‘He would beat us,’ he added.
‘I remember a time my dad took a boat paddle and just cracked me straight across the head. Blood was everywhere. He got a needle and thread and stitched my head back up,’ Muhummed’s daughter, Crystal recalled.
His other daughter, Likesha, said that she was ‘raped by my father on a daily basis for 12 years’.
Cowan said on Monday that she and her children have gone through intensive therapy and she believes that the Turpin children in California will need the same.
Cowan recalled her story just a week after David Turpin (left), 57, and his wife Louise (right), 49, were accused of starving, torturing and chaining up their 13 children – ranging from 2 to 29 – at their California home
All the children, pictured here with their parents, had been subjected to ‘prolonged abuse’, were not allowed to shower more than once a year, and barred from seeing a dentist or doctor
‘Thank God that 17-year-old girl, she reminded me of myself, you know, when I slipped that letter. She got that cell phone and she went out that window and she called for help,’ Cowan told Fox.
Cowan currently works as a domestic violence advocate. She is also the host of a weekly radio show on Voice It internet radio.
‘I’ve been blessed with this radio station, so now I can reach a broader audience, I can talk about domestic violence,’ said Cowan.
Cowan recalled her story just a week after David Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise, 49, were accused of starving, torturing and chaining up their 13 children – ranging from 2 to 29 – at their California home.
Investigators said the siblings had been so malnourished that the older ones still looked like children.
The oldest, a 29-year-old woman, weighed just 82 pounds, prosecutors said. A 12-year-old appeared to be the size of an average seven-year-old.
Their 17-year-old daughter had been planning an escape with several other siblings for two years, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said.
On Sunday, January 14, the girl jumped out of a window and escaped with another sibling, who got scared and eventually went back home. But the 17-year-old used a deactivated cellphone to call 911.
The couple, pictured with their kids, are accused of torture, child abuse and other charges for their treatment of the 13 children
The 13 siblings lived at this property in Perris, California after moving from Texas
When deputies arrived at their home, the Turpins rushed to free two of their children – an 11-year-old and 13-year-old – from their chains as the deputies stood at the door, Hestrin said.
Inside the house, they found a 22-year-old chained to a bed, he said.
Most of the Turpin children were homeschooled but one of the older boys was allowed to attend classes at a local college, Hestrin said.
His mother would drive him there, stay outside in the hallway during the class and then take him back home as soon as the class ended, he said.
The Turpins were brought before a judge, shackled at the ankles and wrists, at Riverside County Court on Wednesday.
They were both wearing dark suits and went to lengths to try and hide their chains as their lawyers demanded that the video cameras in court did not film the metal shackles.
The couple, who face almost 40 counts including torture, false imprisonment, abuse on a dependent, and child abuse, were in court for a child protection order hearing.
The Turpins have pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of torture, child abuse, dependent adult abuse and false imprisonment dating. They are due back in court on February 23.