RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The California children who authorities say were tortured by their parents and so malnourished that their growth was stunted are slowly providing valuable information to investigators, a prosecutor told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
"Victims in these kinds of cases, they tell their story, but they tell it slowly. They tell it at their own pace," Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said. "It will come out when it comes out."
David and Louise Turpin are accused of abusing their 13 children — ranging from 2 to 29 — before they were rescued on Jan. 14 from their home in Perris. They have pleaded not guilty to torture and other charges.
A judge signed a protective order Wednesday prohibiting the couple from contacting their children, except through attorneys or investigators. Before the brief hearing, Louise Turpin looked at her husband and smiled.
"It protects everyone involved, including my client," David Turpin's attorney, David Macher, said about the order. "I don't want my client exposed to accusations that he attempted to harass or threaten a witness."
Louise Turpin's attorney declined to comment after the hearing.
All of the children remained hospitalized and were relieved to be out of the home, Hestrin said.
Deputies arrested the husband and wife after their 17-year-old daughter climbed out a window and called 911. Authorities found the siblings in the family's filthy home, with three of them shackled to beds when deputies knocked on the door.
Investigators have learned that the children were isolated from each other and locked in different rooms in small groups, Hestrin said.
The children did not have access to televisions or radios but were able to read and write and expressed themselves in hundreds of journals that were seized from the home, the district attorney said.
"It appears to me that they lacked any kind of understanding about how the world worked," Hestrin said.
One of the older boys had taken a variety of classes at Mt. San Jacinto College, a community college, but his mother took him to the campus and waited outside class for him, Hestrin said. The college confirmed that one of the Turpins had been a student but refused to provide additional information, including some that is generally releasable under federal privacy laws.
Earlier this week, Louise Turpin's half-brother, Billy Lambert, told several news organizations that she had aspired to have a reality television show focusing on their large family. But Hestrin said investigators have uncovered no evidence indicating the couple was seeking media attention or a show.
Authorities asked anyone with information about the case to call 1-888-934-5437.
Balsamo reported from Los Angeles.