Parents deny more than a dozen charges after siblings found shackled
The 13 children allegedly imprisoned for years by their parents in their squalid California home were beaten, shackled, starved a court hears
The victims, ages 2 to 29, were severely malnourished, suffering from muscle wasting and stunted growth. Several had cognitive impairment and nerve damage from extreme and prolonged physical abuse, the prosecutor said.
Each parent faces 94 years to life in prison if convicted on more than two dozen charges including torture, child abuse and false imprisonment in a case that has shocked the nation and prompted calls for greater supervision of home schooling.
The father, David Turpin, 57, is also accused of sexually abusing one of his young daughters. He and his wife, Louise, 49, sat without speaking, dressed in dark clothes during their initial court appearance on Thursday. The husband hunched over the defense table with his hands in his lap.
Defense attorneys entered not guilty pleas to all the charges.
At a news conference before the proceeding, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin described what he said was a case of "human depravity." The children were denied food, basic hygiene and medical care and were punished for perceived infractions such as washing their hands above the wrist.
He said the victims were chained for weeks or even months at a time, not released even to use the bathroom. They were allowed to shower only once a year. "The parents would apparently buy food for themselves and not allow the children to eat it," he said. "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."
As a result of malnourishment, the 12-year-old child was the weight of an average 7-year-old while the oldest, a 29-year-old woman, weighed just 82 pounds, he said.
The couple was arrested on Sunday in their home in Perris, California, about 70 miles (113 km) east of Los Angeles, after an emaciated teenage daughter climbed out a window and called police. A sibling who escaped with her got scared and turned back, Hestrin said.
"The 17-year-old victim that escaped had been working on a plan with the siblings to escape this abuse for more than two years," he added.
The father registered the house, where the family lived since 2014, as the private Sandcastle Day School and listed himself as the principal. The children were the only students. Most states, including California, do not monitor or inspect such schools.
Hestrin suggested the children's schooling was deficient, as many lacked basic knowledge about such things as police officers and medication.Published: by Radio NewsHub