Regular beatings, strangulation and starvation: Charges against Turpins offer chilling look into abuse

Last Updated Jan 18, 2018 7:56 PM EST

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- A case of child abuse has shocked the nation as the parents of 13 siblings -- ages 2 to 29 -- were charged Thursday with imprisoning them, abusing them and torturing them. David Allen Turpin, 56, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, appeared in court and entered not guilty pleas on all counts.

Prosecutors filed 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse or neglect and 12 counts of false imprisonment, for alleged crimes ranging from 2010 to the present. David Turpin is also charged with one count of lewd act on a child.

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin provided the first chilling details of the abuse allegedly inflicted on the 13 Turpin children over the last seven years -- regular beatings, strangulation and starvation.

"One of the children at age 12 was the weight of an average 7-year-old," he said. "The victims report that as a punishment starting many years ago they to be tied up, first with ropes."

The Turpins sat at the defense table during the arraignment, dressed in dark suits and shackled.

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David and Louise Turpin plead not guilty in court in Riverside, Calif., on Jan. 18, 2018.

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The torture occurred at three different homes, intensifying in recent years. The kids were chained in rooms for weeks -- even months at a time -- not even allowed to go to the restroom.

"One victim at one point was tied up and hog-tied and then when that victim was able to escape the ropes, these defendants eventually began using chains and padlocks to chain up the victims to the bed," Hestrin said.

Hestrin continued: "Several of the victims have cognitive impairment and neuropathy which is nerve damage as a result of this and prolonged physical abuse."

"None of the victims were allowed to shower more than once a year," Hestrin added. "One of the reasons for the punishment were if the children were found to wash their hands above the wrist area, they would be accused of playing in the water and they would be chained up."

Hestrin explained that the siblings were apparently home-schooled and lacked a basic knowledge of life. Several did not know what a police officer was.

"About the only thing the children were allowed to do in their rooms or chained up was to write in journals," Hestrin said. "We now have recovered those journals, hundreds of them."

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

The children were discovered after their 17-year-old sister escaped through a window and called police in a plan that was apparently in the making for the last two years. She took another sibling with her, who eventually got scared and turned back.  

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A look at the Turpin family

Three of the kids were found chained up when the police arrived.

"An 11- and 14-year-old were unchained as the police stood at the door while a 22-year-old remained chained to a bed when the police entered the home," Hestrin said.

None of the siblings had seen a doctor in more than four years, and none had ever seen a dentist, Hestrin said. When authorities asked the 17-year-old whether there were any pills or medication inside the house, she didn't know what those were.  

If convicted as charged, they face up to 94 years to life in prison, according to the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.

People from all over the world are offering to adopt these children.