Published: Fri, January 19, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Court hearing set for California couple charged with torture

Court hearing set for California couple charged with torture

David Turpin also faces a count of lewd act on a child.

All of the siblings were found to be severely malnourished, Hestrin said.

Another sibling had escaped with her, he said, but got scared and turned back. The girl initially escaped with another sibling, but that sibling became frightened and returned home, he said.

Hestrin did not say what finally triggered the girl to act.

The husband, 57, and wife, 49, are charged with torture and child endangerment after police found their children appearing "malnourished and very dirty" and three of them chained to furniture at their home in Perris. A 12-year-old appeared to be the size of an average seven-year-old.

Experts say it may have been easier for the parents to shield their children from scrutiny because they were home-schooled. Their ages range from 2 to 29.

Child Protective Services received thousands of calls from people who want to help the children and adults. All the children's names begin with the letter J, according to court documents that didn't provide their full names. They're both being held at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside and are facing 94 years to life in state prison if convicted.

He said investigators were working hard to prepare the torture case for prosecutors.

Louise Turpin's sister says the mother of the 13 malnourished brothers and sisters would "laugh it off" when they looked "skinny". "Our clients are presumed to be innocent, and that is a very important presumption".

"I feel they were model Christians", she said.

As an engineer, David Turpin had worked at Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor confirmed on Tuesday, leaving in 2010.

Investigators found the rest of the Turpins' children - including seven adults - inside a filthy home, with some shackled to beds with chains and padlocks "in dark and foul-smelling surroundings", the sheriff's department said.

He said the victims were chained for weeks or even months at a time, not released even to use the bathroom.

Their bankruptcy lawyer, Ivan Trahan, said he never met the children but the couple "spoke about them highly". "What we would like the public to know is that our clients are presumed to be innocent", said defense attorney David Macher.

The kids' horrific ordeal came to an end when the 17-year-old daughter jumped out of a window in the family home and called 911.

The Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association said states do not mandate welfare or safety visits at home schools.

As for health care, none of the children has seen a doctor in more than four years, Hestrin said, and none of them had ever seen a dentist. When the girl who escaped was asked if any pills were in the home, she did not understand what medication was.

The number of US children educated at home has doubled to about 1.7 million, or 3 percent of the nation's school-age population, from 1999, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

In addition to raising them largely in isolation, the parents may have been able to hide the abuse by functioning while other families slept.

Most of the Turpin children suffered from severe caloric malnutrition, and several have cognitive impairment as a result of abuse, Hestrin said.

He said it was not clear how long the family had been held in such conditions but it appeared to have been for a "prolonged period".

Other neighbours described the family as intensely private.

David Turpin had been homeschooling his children at the residence, which he called the Sandcastle Day School. Neighbours have told local media that the Turpins rarely came outside.

Flores emphasized that she never witnessed any abuse of the children while she lived in the home.

The children were fed little, on a schedule, but the parents bought food for themselves and did not allow the children to eat it, he said. Many didn't know what a police officer was.

"This is depraved conduct", Hestrin said. "It breaks our hearts". And during this time, despite being kept in separate rooms or chained to furniture, the children were allowed to keep journals of their own.

The city could find no records of fire inspections, Perris Assistant City Clerk Judy Haughney said in response to a public records request by AP.

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