The California couple who ran a "horror house," allegedly abusing and holding their 13 children captive, plead not guilty on Thursday to torture, abuse and false imprisonment charges.
David Turpin, 56, and wife Louise Turpin, 49, were charged with 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, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin said in a press release.
David Turpin was also charged with one count of lewd act on a child under the age of 14 by force, fear or duress, though details of that charges are unknown.
The couple who showed no emotion during their first court appearance on Thursday, are due back in court on Feb. 23.
If convicted, each could face 94 years to life in prison.
David and Louise Turpin arrested in their Perris, California home after their 17-year-old daughter climbed through a window on Sunday and called 911 using a disconnected cell phone she found, authorities said.
When police arrived, they discovered the 13 children — ranging in age from 2 to 29 — living inside the home, starving and some shackled to furniture. The home reportedly was dark and foul-smelling, with feces and urine found throughout the room.
At a press conference on Thursday, authorities claimed the children were rationed one meal per day and were only allowed to shower once per year. They also alleged the kids were restrained by ropes to their beds, and later to chains and padlocks.
"In more than 20 years as a prosecutor in Riverside County, this is one of the most disturbing cases I've seen," Hestrin said. "We are fully prepared to seek justice in this case and to do so in a way that protects all of these victims from further harm."
Malnutrition apparently stunted the Turpin children's growth, Hestrin said. One of the victims, 12, had the average weight of a 7-year-old, and the eldest victim, 29, weighed only 82 pounds, police said.
The children were fed on a schedule but only the 2-year-old appeared to get enough food, Hestrin said. He did not issue a charge of torture in the case of the toddler.
Of the 13 siblings, seven adults are being treated at Corona Reginal Medical Center, and the six minors are receiving care at Riverside University Health System. As of Tuesday, the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services is seeking court authorization to oversee and provide care for the children "to the extent that's necessary, " spokeswoman Susan von Zabern said.
"At this point, we'll be doing a full assessment with medical professionals to better understand needs of the adults as well as the children, and we'll be prepared to provide supportive services as well as engage other agencies in assisting these individuals to be stable," she told reporters Tuesday.
Medical professionals have been working to stabilize the children's nutrition with IVs and the slow introduction of foods into their bodies.
Meanwhile, David and Louise Turpin are being held on $12 million bail each.0comments
When asked about the number of counts and the nature of the charges, David Turpin's public defender David Macher said: "It's going to be a challenge."
The Riverside University Health Center Foundation set up a fund to accept donations and the chamber of commerce created a page listing clothing sizes and items needed for the victims. You can access the page by clicking here.