Aunt: 13 children found shackled in Calif. home kept from extended family

Aunt: 13 children found shackled in Calif. home kept from extended family

The parents of 13 sisters and brothers found malnourished in their family home were charged Thursday with torture, abuse and other counts that could keep them in prison for the rest of their lives, a prosecutor said.

Among the charges the parents face: 12 counts each of torture, 12 counts each of false imprisonment, seven counts each of abuse of a dependent adult, and six counts each of child abuse or neglect. Hestrin said that David Turpin also was charged with a lewd act on a child by force or fear of duress. The Turpins appeared in court Thursday afternoon shackled and in dress clothes and entered pleas of not guilty at their arraignment.

The Turpins are scheduled to appear in court again on February 23.

Louise Turpin, 49, along with her husband, 57-year-old David Allen Turpin, are being held on $12.3 million NZD bail each.

"There are cases that stick with you, that haunt you", Hestrin said at a press conference Thursday.

"If convicted of all charges, they face 94 years to life in prison", Hestrin told reporters in Riverside.

Asked if the parents have indicated why they treated their children this way, Hestrin said he couldn't comment about that.

"Our clients are presumed to be innocent", said attorney David Macher. "And that's a very important presumption".

When authorities confronted the girl's mother, Louise Anna Turpin, sheriff's Capt. Greg Fellows said she appeared "perplexed" about why officers had come to the home.

Community members in Perris, California paid their respects to the Turpin children who were found shackled and severely malnourished inside their family home early Sunday.

"To give you an example", Hestrin said Thursday, "one of the children at age 12 is the weight of an average 7-year-old". The siblings had not seen a doctor in more than four years and had never seen a dentist.

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Hestrin suggested the children's schooling was deficient, as many lacked basic knowledge about such things as police officers and medication. Several did not know what a police officer was. "These individuals sleep all day and are up all night". "One victim at one point was tied up and hogtied, and then when that victim was able to escape the ropes, these defendants eventually began using chains and padlocks".

Further details have emerged in the alleged torture, which police described as an "escalating climate of brutality" that began in Texas and ended in the small Californian town of Perris. The couple apparently had enough money.

"They would buy food, including pies, apple, pumpkin pies, leave it on the counter, let the children look at it but not eat the food".

The charges include allegations dating to 2010, when the couple moved to Riverside County, California, from outside Fort Worth, Texas. The parents lived apart and would deliver food to the children from time to time. They were also forbidden from showering a few times a year.

They were supposedly beaten and strangled for washing their hands above the wrists, which the parents considered playing with water.

The secret horror was revealed Sunday when one of the children, after two years of planning, escaped and contacted authorities, Hestrin said.

Some charges only reflected 12 children since the youngest, age 2, appeared in the best condition of all of the siblings.

The older teen called 911 for help with a cellphone she had found inside the house, Hestrin said. "I was in Texas where I knew nobody". And during this time, despite being kept in separate rooms or chained to furniture, the children were allowed to keep journals of their own.

Elizabeth Flores, sister of Louise Turpin, spoke to "Good Morning America" in an emotional interview and said she was shocked to hear about the abuse.

The siblings, who were schooled at home, were rarely seen outside the house, though the parents posted photos of them smiling together at Disneyland and in Las Vegas, where the couple renewed their wedding vows. The chamber is also gathering cash donations alongside the Riverside University Health System Foundation.

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