David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin, 49, were charged with multiple felony counts of torture, child abuse, abuse of dependent adults and false imprisonment, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin announced. David Turpin was also charged with one count of a lewd act on a child by force. If convicted, the couple faces up to 94 years to life in prison. They were arrested this week on suspicion of torture and child endangerment.
“As a prosecutor there are some cases that haunt you,” Hestrin told reporters Thursday. “Some deal with human depravity and that’s what we’re dealing with here.”
The Turpins’ 13 children, authorities said, were captives in the couple’s tract house on Muir Woods Road and appeared to have undergone years of abuse and starvation. Some were shackled to their beds.
Authorities learned of the horrors inside the house after a 17-year-old girl called 911 early Sunday, saying she had escaped through a window from her parents’ house, where she and her siblings had been trapped. She used a deactivated cellphone to make the call, Riverside County Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Fellows said at a news conference Tuesday. She had photos to back up her claims.
Sheriff’s deputies were shocked by the girl’s small size and emaciated appearance, thinking she was only 10.
When deputies arrived at the house, it was “extremely dirty,” Fellows said. There was a strong, foul stench. Three young people were in chains. And yet, Fellows said, the children’s mother seemed surprised to see authorities.
“It seemed that the mother was perplexed as to why we were at the residence,” he said.
Sheriff’s deputies had no prior contact with the Turpins or calls from their house, Fellows said. Likewise, the Police Department in Murrieta, where the family lived from 2010 to 2014 after moving to California from Texas, had no interactions with them, said a spokesman for the agency.
The youngest of their children is 2. Deputies at first assumed from the children’s frail and malnourished appearance that all of them were minors but later determined that seven of them were adults ages 18 to 29, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
County adult and child protective service workers and medical professionals are assessing the siblings, Fellows said. The parents, he said, showed “no indication of mental illness at this time” that could explain what they did to their children.
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