RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- A 17-year-old girl who had just escaped what officials have called a house of horrors called police dispatchers and described in a high-pitched voice abuse that had gone on for years. "My two little sisters right now are chained up," she said in a recording played Wednesday during a hearing to determine if her mother and father stand trial for a raft of abuse charges.
In the call played in Riverside County court, according to CBS Los Angeles reporter Nicole Comstock, the girl said she doesn't know much about her mother and that the woman "doesn't take care of us….they only chain us up if we do something wrong."
The girl said the house had so much dust she couldn't breathe, and that she hadn't taken a bath in more than a year, Comstock reported. She told the dispatcher she broke out of the home to help her siblings because she couldn't stand to hear and see them crying anymore, the station reports.
"They will wake up at night and they will start crying and they wanted me to call somebody," she said of her siblings. "I wanted to call y'all so y'all can help my sisters."
The girl's mother, Louise Turpin, dabbed her eyes with a tissue as the 911 call was played.
David and Louise Turpin have pleaded not guilty to torture, child abuse and other charges. They are being held on $12 million bail each.
The 911 call in January was the start of a new day for their 13 children, between 2 and 29, some of whom didn't even understand the role of police officers when they showed up at the house in response to the call.
Officers freed two children who were shackled to beds and arrested the parents in a case that drew worldwide attention to abuse and neglect case at the Perris, California, home that looked neatly kept from the outside.
Inside, police discovered something completely different.
The house reeked of human waste, and the evidence of starvation was obvious, with the oldest of 13 siblings weighing just 82 pounds. Investigators say the children were locked up as punishment, denied food and toys and allowed to do little except write in journals, prosecutors said.
Sheriff's deputies who investigated the case took the stand at Wednesday's hearing, but none of the siblings were expected to take the stand. Comstock reports the couple mostly stared straight ahead while investigators detailed their children's disturbing accounts of abuse.
One of the first investigators to speak to the girl testified that she told him her sisters had been chained up because they had stolen candy from the kitchen, the station reports.
According to the testimony, the 17-year-old girl told authorities her father sexually abused her when she was 12. David Turpin is also facing a charge of a lewd and lasicious act on a child under 14. An investigator also testified the girl told authorities some of her siblings acted as hall monitors so the other siblings wouldn't steal candy or food, and the siblings would eat only once a day, one at a time while standing up.
One of the couple's son's reportedly told an investigator he had been bound with ropes but escaped by using his teeth to chew his way out. Eventually, he said his father and mother started using small chains instead, Comstock reported.
Children were isolated from each other and locked in different rooms in small groups. They did not have access to televisions or radios but expressed themselves in the hundreds of journals that investigators seized from the home. Most of the Turpin children were homeschooled, but one of the older boys was allowed to attend classes at a local college, reports CBS Los Angeles. His mother would drive him there, stay outside in the hallway during the class and then take him back home as soon as the class ended, prosecutors said.
After they were freed, the siblings were immediately hospitalized and eventually released.
Their current whereabouts are unknown. A spokeswoman for the county's social services department declined to discuss the case.
Jack Osborn, an attorney appointed to represent the seven adult children, said earlier this year they were "doing well." They have participated in music therapy programs, made crafts and world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma held a special concert for them. They communicated with their younger siblings over Skype.
"They're happy, they are wanting to move forward, they do not want to dwell on the past," he told the Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper in February. "They want their identity to be now and going forward the things they hope to do, the dreams they have. They do not want people to think of them only as a possible victim, but as young adults setting off on their lives."
Osborn did not respond to an email from The Associated Press this week.
David Turpin's attorney, David Macher, said he was "looking forward to the hearing," but declined to comment further. Louise Turpin's lawyer did not immediately respond to request for comment.
The hearing is expected to last at least until Thursday.