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Riverside parents charged with torture, child abuse

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- A couple who allegedly kept their malnourished children captive in their Perris home pleaded not guilty on all counts after being charged with torture, abuse and false imprisonment on Thursday.

Louise Turpin appears in court for her arraignment.

David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin, 49, face dozens of felony charges, including 12 counts each of torture and 12 counts each of false imprisonment. Other charges include seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult and six counts of child abuse or neglect. David Turpin was also charged with one count of lewd conduct with a child under 14 years of age.

David Turpin faces up to 94 years to life in prison if convicted on all charges.

The Turpins have 13 children, but prosecutors did not charge them with any crimes against their 2-year-old daughter. Investigators said she was the only sibling who appeared to be well fed and cared for.

A judge set bail at $12 million each for the Turpins, who were scheduled to return to court on Feb. 23. A public defender will represent David Turpin, and, due to a conflict of interest for the public defender's office, another lawyer has been appointed to represent Louise Turpin.

If convicted of all charges, the Turpins could face a maximum sentence of 94 years to life in prison.

"What we would like the public to know is that our clients are presumed to be innocent, and that's a very important presumption," David Macher, an attorney for David Turpin, told reporters after the hearing.

Earlier Thursday, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin detailed years of alleged abuse endured by 12 of the couple's children. It included chaining the siblings to beds for weeks at a time, beatings and chokings. The couple didn't let their children shower more than once a year and taunted the malnourished siblings by leaving out pies and other treats that they were not allowed to eat, Hestrin said.

"This is severe, emotional, physical abuse. ... This is depraved conduct," Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said.

What could be next for the 13 siblings

The Riverside County Department of Public Social Services is seeking court authorization to provide oversight and care for the 13 siblings "to the extent that's necessary," Riverside County Department of Public Social Services Director 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.

When asked if they would go to live with family members, von Zabern said the practice is to identify relatives who are able to provide care, as long as they pass background checks and are suitable and stable. But at the time of the Tuesday press conference, she said no relatives had come forward.

Of the 13 siblings, the adults are being treated at Corona Regional Medical Center in Corona, and the six children are under care at Riverside University Health System Medical Center in Moreno Valley.

"It's hard to think of them as adults," Mark Uffer, Corona Regional Medical Center CEO, said Tuesday. "When you see them, they're small. They're stable. They're being fed."

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