Woman, children held captive 20 years ago in same California town as Turpin kids

Posted at 9:27 AM, Jan 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-23 12:44:41-05

LAKEWOOD, Ohio - The horrific story of 13 children held captive by their parents in Perris, California brings back some eerie memories for an Ohio woman. She was held captive along with 13 children in Perris back in 1998, and she recalls the similarities between her case and the Turpin family torture case.

"Oh my gosh, it was deja vu all over, I couldn't believe it," domestic violence advocate Laura Cowan told WJW.

"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 said.

That was April of 1998. Laura says a man she was dating in California refused to let her leave. He had 13 children, she had two.

"He took me and my children and he locked us up in a garage for over six months," she said.

Twenty years later, Laura now finds peace by helping others who are victims of domestic violence. She is the host of a weekly radio show on Voice It internet radio, hoping to help people escape their situation.

"I've been blessed with this radio station, so now I can reach a broader audience, I can talk about domestic violence," said Cowan.

Laura's escape happened when her captor took her to a post office to pick up a certified package. When he was distracted she showed the postal worker a letter she had been secretly writing.

"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. The next day, she got help for us. It went to the sheriff's department and they came and rescued us," she said.

Laura says she and her children have gone through intensive therapy. She is sure the Turpin children in California will need the same.

"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," said Cowan.

In addition to her radio show, Laura Cowan is a domestic violence advocate. She says the man who held her and her children captive is currently serving seven consecutive life terms in prison.