Riverside County sheriff’s deputies arrested the parents David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpinin January. (Riverside County Sheriff’s Department via AP)

California court hears tales of shackled, starved children

David and Louise Turpin have pleaded not guilty to torture, child abuse of their 12 children

Two pale, malnourished girls are photographed shackled to bunk beds. Their sister, who surreptitiously snapped the photos, is heard pleading in a 911 call for someone to come and save her siblings.

“They will wake up at night and they will start crying and they wanted me to call somebody,” the 17-year-old tells the dispatcher in a quivering, childlike voice.

A judge reviewed the evidence at a preliminary hearing Wednesday to decide whether a California couple will face trial on allegations of subjecting most of their 13 children to years of filth, starvation and bizarre abuse that included feeding them mouldy pies and sometimes caging them as punishment.

David and Louise Turpin have pleaded not guilty to torture, child abuse and other charges. Each is being held on $12 million bail and could face up to life in prison if convicted.

The couple was arrested in January after their 17-year-old daughter, who had spent two years planning an escape, climbed out a window and left the home in Perris, then called 911. By the time police arrived at the house 70 miles (113 kilometres) southeast of Los Angeles, two girls, 11 and 14, had been hastily released from their chains when police showed up, but a 22-year-old son remained shackled.

The young man said he and his siblings had been suspected of stealing food and being disrespectful, Riverside County sheriff’s Det. Thomas Salisbury said. The man said he had been tied up with ropes at first but later, after learning to wriggle free, restrained with increasingly larger chains on and off over six years.

Prosecutors also showed photos of the girls that their 17-year-old sister had snapped with an old cellphone before fleeing. The photos drew gasps from some court attendees.

Sheriff’s deputy Daniel Brown said one daughter told him that she knew her sister had contacted police when she heard a knock at the door and saw flashing lights outside the window.

“She said she was finally going to become free,” Brown said.

Investigators testified that the Turpin children, ranging in age from 2 to 29, lived mostly in locked rooms and were deprived of food, toys, games, schooling and most outside contact, barring two family visits to Disneyland and Las Vegas.

The oldest son attended classes at a local community college but investigators have said his mother waited outside the classroom and immediately brought him home after classes.

Senior investigators with the county district attorney’s office testified that doctors and medical records showed some of the children were severely malnourished and had muscle wasting, with some adult children being 32 pounds (14.5 kilograms) underweight.

The 11-year-old girl who had been shackled to her bed had stunted growth from malnourishment and her arms were the size of an infant’s, investigator Patrick Morris said.

In her 20-minute 911 call, the 17-year-old who escaped told the dispatcher: “We don’t really do school. I haven’t finished first grade.”

The girl told sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Campos that she hadn’t bathed in a year and that she didn’t know the date or the month, he testified.

About two years ago, her mother choked the girl for watching a Justin Bieber video on a cellphone borrowed from her sister, telling her: “You want to die and go to hell,” according to Campos.

There was no breakfast, and recently lunch and dinner had been combined into one meal that included peanut butter and bologna sandwiches, a frozen burrito and chips.

The girl said she recently had started refusing the peanut butter sandwiches “because she starts to gag and starts to throw up,” Campos testified.

Melley reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalist Michael Balsamo contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

Amy Taxin And Brian Melley, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Last year’s Langley volunteer extraordinaire pushes others to ‘give it a try’

Volunteering is incredibly gratifying and fun, says Sylvia Anderson in her call for 2019 nominees.

VIDEO: Koch’s OT winner sends Giants to sixth straight victory

Three games, three cities, three victories for the Langley-based hockey G-Men.

Tardi earns first victory in quest for third national title

A Langley-based junior curling team is in Prince Albert, Sask. for the Canadian championships.

VIDEO: Giants wrap southern swing with 6-4 win in Spokane

The Langley-based hockey team defeated the Chiefs Friday night.

Charges upgraded against mother of murdered Langley girl

Kerryann Lewis now faces first- rather than second-degree murder in the death of Aaliyah Rosa.

Keep focus on helping Canadians at home, Trudeau tells MPs at start of meeting

Trudeau said the Liberals will offer Canadians hope amid issue like climate change and global tensions

Crash closes Coquihalla southbound lane south of Merritt

Accident occurred approximately 26 kilometres south of Merritt

Skaters stranded in Saint John, NB, amid storm on last day of championships

More than half of the flights out of the city’s airport were cancelled due to the weather

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi was facing charges related to alleged sexual assault, criminal harassment, assault and forcible confinement of a woman

12 poisoned eagles found on Vancouver Island

Improper disposal of euthanized animal suspected

Olympic softball qualifier to be held in B.C.

Tournament is to be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 1

B.C. resident creates global sport training program

The 20 hour course teaches the science and application of interval training at the university level

B.C. VIEWS: Fact-checking the NDP’s speculation tax on empty homes

Negative-option billing is still legal for governments

Most Read