Siblings chained, beaten, choked as punishment, allowed 1 shower a year, DA says

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The Riverside District attorney Thursday said the parents of the 13 siblings found confined in their home in Perris will be charged with dozens of felonies and face 94 years to life in prison if convicted on all charges.

David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 49, have been in police custody since Sunday after authorities said they found their children — ranging in age from 2 to 29 — appearing “malnourished and very dirty” and three of them chained to furniture at their home in Perris, southeast of Los Angeles.

The couple will be charged with 12 counts of torture and 12 counts of false imprisonment, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said. In addition, David Turpin will be charged with a lewd act on a child.

The couple also faces seven  counts of abuse of dependent adults and six counts child abuse and neglect.

Read the criminal complaint filed against the Turpins

The alleged crimes took place between 2010 and the present in the cities of Murrieta and Perris.

None of the torture or false imprisonment counts involve the couple's 2-year-old daughter, Hestrin said. Unlike the other 12 siblings, she appeared to be well fed and cared for, he said.

Hestrin said investigators have interviewed the victims and read through journals that they all kept. His description of the family's life is extremely disturbing.

The Turpin's abuse started when the family lived in Fort Worth, Texas, and it intensified over time. It "started out as neglect" and became severe, pervasive child abuse, Hestrin said.

By the time they moved to Perris, Calif., in 2014, they were living a nocturnal lifestyle, sleeping during the day and awake at night. They typically went to bed at 4 or 5 a.m. and slept all day, he said.

The siblings were punished by being tied up with ropes, hog tied or chained with padlocks to their beds. They were left that way for weeks and even months at a time, Hestrin said. When police showed up at the Perris home this week, they found three of the siblings chained to their beds, he said.

"This is severe, emotional, physical abuse. ... This is depraved conduct," Hestrin said.

The only thing the siblings were allowed to do while being punished was write in journals. Investigators found hundreds of these journals at the home.

All of the victims have been examined by doctors. All but the youngest were malnourished. One 12-year-old child has the weight of a 7-year-old, and the 29-year-old sibling weighs 82 pounds, Hestrin said. Some of the victims have cognitive impairment and nerve damage "as a result of this extreme and prolonged physical abuse," he added.

Investigators believe that the siblings were allowed to shower no more than once a year, and there is circumstantial evidence that they were not released from their chains to go to the bathroom while they were being punished, Hestrin said.

The Turpins also used beatings and strangulation as punishment, the prosecutor said.

The siblings haven't seen a doctor in four years and have never been to a dentist, Hestrin said. While the parents said they were all home schooled, most don't have a basic understanding of life outside their home, he said. Many of the children didn't know what a police officer was. The 17-year-old girl who escaped from the home and alerted authorities on Monday didn't know about pills or other medications, Hestrin said.

He also said the children had been planning their escape for two years. Sunday morning, a 17-year old girl was able to escape through a bedroom window with a younger sibling, though the sibling became afraid and went home. The girl was able to call 911 and up until police arrived, her siblings were still enduring abuse and torture.

"The defendants were able to get two of the victims unchained before the police actually entered, an 11 and 14-year-old were unchained as the police stood at the door.  A 22-year-old remained chained to a bed as officers walked into the house," said Hestrin.

The husband and wife are being held at $12 million bail each -- $1 million for each of the children involved. They are scheduled to return to court February 23.