RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – A 17-year-old girl plotted for two years to escape from the home where she and her siblings were chained and tortured by her parents for several years, according to the district attorney who filed formal charges in the case on Thursday.
The children suffered "severe, emotional physical abuse" for years, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said.
David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 49, of Perris, California, were charged with torture, false imprisonment, child abuse and several counts of abuse of a dependent adult. If convicted on all 12 charges, they face 94 years to life in prison.
David Turpin was also charged with a lewd act on a child by force or fear. The victim was a female under the age of 14, according to Hestrin.
The victims, ranging in age from 2 years old to adults in their late 20s, are all the children of the Turpins who were tortured and beaten for years. One element of torture included an inverted sleep schedule.
"These individuals sleep all day and are up all night," said Hestrin. "All 13 of the victims, including the defendants, typically go to sleep around 4 or 5 in the morning and are up all night."
Hestrin said the victims were relieved to be rescued. A number of journals kept by the children found at the home will play a significant role in their parents’ criminal trial.
“They are strong evidence,” Hestrin said of the journals at a Thursday morning press conference. “This is an ongoing investigation. We are at the beginning, not the end.”
The victims were often tied up as punishment. When one victim was hogtied and got free, the Turpins started chaining their children with padlocks, said Hestrin. Two children were released from their chains before Riverside County sheriff’s officers entered the home, while an adult victim was found chained.
“These punishments would last for weeks or even months at a time,” said Hestrin. “The victims were not released to go to the bathroom.”
Authorities found the children severely malnourished with muscle waste. One 12-year-old child weighs the average weight of a 7-year-old, and a 29-year-old victim weighs 89 pounds. Several of the victims have nerve damage due to extreme and prolonged physical abuse.
The children were only allowed to shower once a year, and when they were found to be washing their hands above their wrists they were accused of "playing in the water."
The Turpins also fed the children very little while they ate well. They often left food, like apple pies and other treats, on counters for the children to see. Similarly, the children were not allowed to play with toys but authorities found a number of unopened toys in the home.
Punishments included frequent beatings and strangulation, said Hestrin. None of the children had seen a doctor in four years; they had never seen a dentist.
The 17-year-old girl who plotted the escape fled the home through a window with a sibling on Sunday. The other child turned around and returned to the Turpin home out of fear.
Authorities believe the neglect and abuse started when the family lived in Fort Worth, Texas. At one point they lived apart as a family and the parents would drop off food from time to time, Hestrin said.
They lived in Texas for 17 years and moved to California in 2010. In 2014, they moved to the town of Perris, about 75 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
David and Louise Turpin appeared in a Riverside courtroom on Thursday afternoon and pleaded not guilty. According to David Macher, public defender and attorney for David Turpin, bail was set at $12 million.
"What we would like the public to know is that our clients are presumed to be innocent," said Macher outside the Riverside County Hall of Justice after the arraignment.
Hestrin asked anyone with information about the victims or the crimes to come forward.
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