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

Coldstream supports Okanagan College Campus residence project

Project would see a 100-bed residence on the Vernon campus in Coldstream

Dog control ramping up on Okanagan Rail Trail

RDNO taking extra precautions to ensure dogs remain on leash

Vernon show supports youth mental health, suicide prevention

Robb Nash will be performing Oct. 2 and 3 at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre

Vernon preps for cannabis legalization

Vernon council tweaking zoning bylaws for non-medical cannabis uses, and cannabis cultivation

Vernon athletes boost WolfPack

Canada West sports roundup

VIDEO: Rare close encounter with whale pod spotted off B.C. waters

Pod of southern resident orca whales breach within arms length of whale watchers

Veterans Affairs ordered to take second look before supporting vets’ relatives

Liberal government ordered officials to adopt a more critical eye

Dead B.C. motorcyclist was member of group that raced down mountain road

Some group members record their rides on Strathcona Parkway and post times to page

Indigenous athletes in spotlight at BC Sports Hall of Fame

New gallery to feature Carey Price, Kaila Mussel and Richard Peter

Vernon Emergency program and Salvation Army team up

Vernon Emergency teams have extended appreciation to the Salvation Army of Vernon… Continue reading

Okanagan College student population climbs

Enrolment up nearly 14 per cent

B.C. couple who went missing on flight from Edmonton named by family

Family released a statement Wednesday saying they’re still intent on finding the two-seater plane

Headbones Gallery welcomes work of Glenn Clarke

Giddieeyup on display Oct. 5 to Nov. 24

VIDEO: A close look at what you were breathing during the B.C. wildfire season

Electron microscope images show soot and tar particles generated by worst B.C. fire season

Most Read