Parents beat, starved and chained children in California 'house of horrors'
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California parents accused of imprisoning their 13 children in the family’s squalid home beat, starved and chained them to their beds for years, taunting them with pie, a prosecutor said on Thursday, calling it a case of “human depravity.”
The father, 57-year-old David Turpin, is also accused of sexually abusing one of his young daughters, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin told reporters in announcing the charges before the couple’s first court appearance on Thursday.
“A case like that sticks with you and haunts you,” Hestrin said. “Sometimes in this business you are faced with human depravity, and that’s what we have here.”
Turpin and his wife, Louise, 49, each face 94 years to life in prison if convicted on the more than two dozen charges that include torture, child abuse and false imprisonment.
The husband was also charged with a single count of lewd conduct with a child.
The couple pleaded not guilty to all charges during a brief hearing before Judge Michael Donner, who ordered each defendant to remain held on $12 million bail and set the next hearing in the case for Feb. 23.
Neither defendant, both dressed in dark street clothes, spoke during the proceedings. The husband could be seen sitting hunched over the defense table with his hands in his lap.
The couple was arrested on Sunday, and the conditions in their home in Perris, California, discovered after their emaciated 17-year-old daughter climbed out of a window of the family home and called police.
“The 17-year-old victim that escaped has been working on a plan with the siblings to escape this abuse for more than two years,” Hestrin said. “She escaped through a window and took one of her siblings with her. That sibling eventually ... became frightened and turned back.”
Hestrin said that the couple may have unlocked two of their children after police arrived at the family home but a 22-year-old remained chained to a bed.
He said the victims were chained for weeks or even months at a time, not released even to use the bathroom. They were allowed to shower only once or twice a year and given little food.
“The parents would apparently buy food for themselves and not allow the children to eat it,” Hestrin said. “They would buy food, including pies, apple pies, pumpkin pies, leave it on the counter, let the children look at it but not eat the food.”
The family moved from the Fort Worth, Texas, area to Murrieta, California, in 2010, and then moved again to nearby Perris in 2014, Hestrin said.
The California Department of Education lists the Perris address, where the family has lived since 2014, as the location of the Sandcastle Day School, with David Turpin as principal.
Hestrin suggested the schooling was deficient, however, as many of the siblings lacked basic knowledge about such things as police officers and medication.