RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – Two Southern California residents accused of torturing and starving their 12 children pleaded guilty Friday to torture, dependent adult abuse, child endangerment and false imprisonment charges in a plea deal with prosecutors.
The deal brings to an end the criminal case against David and Louise Turpin, which began in January 2018 when one of the couple’s daughters escaped from their Perris, California, home. The 17-year-old had been plotting her escape for two years, investigators said, and eventually slipped out of a window and called 911.
Investigators arrived at the Turpin home in a well-kept suburb and found the children chained to their beds.
Prosecutors said the Turpins routinely chained their children – who range in age from 2 to the late 20s – to their beds, starved them and abused them in other ways. Some of the torture included an inverted sleep schedule and hogtying the children, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
On Friday, as Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz read each of the charges against them – identifying each child using only the first three letters of their names – Louise Turpin quietly cried as she wiped away tears from her eyes. David Turpin read over the charges, briefly looking up at Schwartz as he read over the charges.
The Turpins agreed to the charges including torture of 12 of their 13 children. Their youngest child, a three-year-old, was not part of the case.
They face life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years due to the state’s elder laws.
On Friday, District Attorney Mike Hestrin said if the couple hadn’t agreed to the plea agreement the children would have been compelled to testify at trial. Hestrin said the children are pleased they won’t have to testify.
“This is among the worst, most aggravated child abuse cases I have ever seen or been involved with as a prosecutor,” said Hestrin on Friday after the Turpins pleaded guilty to the 14 counts, including torture and willful child cruelty.
Hestrin met with the children before Friday’s plea agreement.
“I was very taken by them. By their optimism, by their hope for the future, their future. They have a zest for life and huge smiles. I’m optimistic for them,” said Hestrin.
The couple returns to court in April for sentencing.
They originally faced 49 counts each of torture and false imprisonment, child abuse and cruelty to a dependent adult. Louise had also been charged with assault resulting in great bodily injury and David Turpin faced a count of lewd acts on a child under 14, but that was dropped.
Prosecutors sought charges to cover the wide range of abuses the children experienced, according to Hestrin.
The case was set to go to trial in September.