Disturbing New Details Emerge in Case of 13 Children Held Captive by Parents

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Truly disturbing new details are emerging in the case of the 13 children -- aged 2 to 29 -- who were found "shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings" in Perris, California. A California district attorney, Mike Hestrin, spoke to press on Thursday, January 18, describing the "severe emotional, physical abuse" and "depraved conduct" that parents David Turpin, 56, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, inflicted on their children. The Riverside County couple has been charged with 12 counts of torture. David Turpin also was charged with a lewd act on a child by force or fear of duress.


Other charges for the parents include seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse or neglect, and 12 counts of false imprisonment. During their arraignment on Thursday, the couple each pleaded not guilty on all counts, after which the judge set bail at $12 million for each defendant. They'll return to court on February 23.

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In the meantime, the children are being treated at two separate medical facilities: The adults (aged 18-29) 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. BuzzFeed reports that according to medical professionals treating the children, they were subjected to "prolonged" periods of starvation and malnutrition. The children were also allegedly shackled for months at a time, and often "not released to go to the bathroom" and were "not allowed to shower more than once a year."

"It's hard to think of them as adults when you see them," the medical center's CEO, Mark Uffer, said Wednesday of the older children. "Because they're so small, it's clear that they are malnourished." He went on to acknowledge that they had been through a "traumatic ordeal" (to say the least!) but were "very friendly and cooperative" with the staff. Even more heartening: "They're hopeful that life will get better for them after this event," he shared. 

The "event" is one that has reportedly spanned not only years of these children's lives but two states. Prior to living in California, the Turpins resided in Texas. Good Morning America spoke with Louise Turpin's sister Elizabeth Jane Flores, who said she lived with the couple in Texas for several months while she was a college student. She said that she was "shocked" and didn't see "any type of abuse" of their children. But she was made to feel uncomfortable by her brother-in-law David Turpin.

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"If I went to get in the shower, he would come in while I was in there and watch me, and it was like a joke. He never touched me or anything," she said. "I was young, I was scared, I was in Texas where I knew nobody. I had no family. I was treated like one of the kids, kind of. So I had rules ... Now that I'm an adult and I look back I see things that I didn't see then."

Flores explained that six years ago, her father tried to fly out and see the family in California, but Louise told him not to come. They didn't think that much about it, because "they were always funny and private anyway, even before they ever had children," Flores noted. She continued: "If it had been like two years ago that she'd cut us off then we might think wow, you know, something's not right. But this had been going on even before they had children."

She went on to share about her sister: "I want her to know that she's still my blood and I love her. I don't agree with what she did and her actions [have] made the whole family suffer. And I want to her know that I'm praying for her salvation, and that we do love her." She added, "But mainly, I want to reach out to the kids, I want them to know that [for] years we begged to Skype them, we begged to see them. The whole family have asked for 20 years to be able to Skype them. And I want them to know that they do have family ... whether they know us or not, that love them."

For now, 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," ABC affiliate KGUN9 reports. Typically, they aim "to identify relatives who are able to provide care, as long as they pass background checks and are suitable and stable," but as of Tuesday, no relatives had come forward.

With hope, the children will be offered the consistent mental, emotional, and physical support they need to overcome this absolutely horrific tragedy.

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