The parents of the children in the California house of horrors case are facing up to a life in prison after being charged Thursday for torture and child abuse, authorities said, while revealing more shocking details of the alleged atrocities that happened inside the suburban home.
Louise Anna Turpin, 49, and David Allen Turpin, 57, appeared in court Thursday afternoon and entered not guilty pleas on all counts, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office said. They were each ordered held on bail of $12 million.
If convicted on all charges — which include torture, child abuse, false imprisonment, dependent adult abuse and a lewd act on a child under age 14 — they each face sentences of 94 years to life in prison, District Attorney Michael Hestrin said. The couple's next court date is Feb. 23.
“One of the children at age 12 is the weight of an average 7-year-old,” he told reporters, revealing more about the discoveries alleged to have been made Sunday after police raided the home in Perris. “The 29-year-old female victim weighs 82 pounds.”
The district attorney said that "the victimization appeared to intensify over time. ... What started out as neglect became severe, pervasive, prolonged child abuse."
Hestrin said authorities investigating the case learned that the 13 children, which ranged in age from 2 to 29, would sleep all day, going to bed around 4 or 5 a.m. usually, and then would be up all night.
Prosecutors said the victims reported as punishment, starting years ago, they began to be tied up with ropes, with one victim hogtied. When one victim slipped out of the ropes, Hestrin said, it is alleged that the Turpins switched to chains and padlocks for tighter security.
“These punishments would last for weeks, or even months at a time,” he added.
The 17-year-old girl who escaped the home Sunday and called 911, leading authorities to the residence, had worked on her escape plan for two years, Hestrin said she told investigators. He said one sibling came along with her, but then turned around out of fear.
Prosecutors allege the children were subjected to “frequent beatings” and “even strangulation”, and weren’t allowed to be unshackled to go to the bathroom. They also allegedly were allowed to take only one shower a year.
“Many of the children didn’t know what a police officer was,” Hestrin said after authorities entered the home Sunday. He added that the victims were not allowed to have toys, despite police finding many in the house in their original packaging, left unopened.
They were only allowed to spend their time writing in journals, which investigators are now combing over after recovering “hundreds” of them, Hestrin said.
Prosecutors also said the parents ate well, and would taunt their children by leaving pumpkin and apple pies on the counter and letting the children look at them, but not eat.
Evidence of human waste on the floor indicated the children were prevented from using the toilet. Sheriff's deputies said the stench in the house was overwhelming.
The children never received dental care, and they had not seen a doctor in more than four years. When the girl who escaped was asked if any pills were in the home, she didn't understand what medication was.
"This is depraved conduct," Hestrin said. "It breaks our hearts."
David Turpin's lawyer, deputy public defender David Macher, said this "very serious case" was going to be a challenge. He added: "Our clients are presumed to be innocent, and that is a very important presumption."
Judge Michael D. Binner rejected Macher's request to ban cameras in the courtroom, saying he didn't see how news coverage of the case already so highly publicized could harm the Turpins.
"I am told that coverage of this case literally spans the globe," the judge said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.