David and Louise Turpin, the California couple accused of holding their 13 children in shackles at their home, have pleaded not guilty.
The parents are facing charges of torture, abuse and false imprisonment.
David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin, 49, were arrested after their daughter escaped from their home where police found some of her siblings chained to their beds and severely malnourished.
They appeared in court hours after prosecutors detailed the horrific abuse allegations against them.
According to Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, David and Louise Turpin had allegedly punished their children by tying them up – first using ropes and later chaining them to their beds with padlocks.
Mike Hestrin said the alleged punishments would last weeks or months, and intensified over time.
According to prosecutors, circumstantial evidence showed the children were not released from their chains to go to the toilet.
The children, who are aged between two and 29, have been treated in hospital since being freed on January 15.
Mike Hestrin detailed some of the gruesome allegations against David and Louise Turpin at a news conference on January 18.
An investigation has found that:
- David and Louise Turpin’s children were accustomed to frequent beatings, including strangulation
- The children were only allowed one shower a year
- They would stay awake all night until going to sleep at four or five in the morning and slept during the day
- The children were not allowed to play with any toys but many were found inside the house in their original packaging
- If the children washed their hands above the wrist they were subjected to punishments, allegedly accused of “playing with water”
- David and Louise Turpin allowed their children to eat only one meal a day but the parents would sometimes buy food, like pumpkin pies, and place it where the children could see it but not eat it
- The children have never seen a dentist and haven’t visited a doctor in over four years
- They lack basic knowledge of life, and did not know who a police officer was
According to authorities, the two-year-old was of normal weight but the other children were severely malnourished.
The 12-year-old weighed as much as a 7-year-old and the 29-year-old weighed only 82 lbs.
Mike Hestrin said that several of the children have cognitive impairment and “neuropathy, which is nerve damage, as a result of this extreme and prolonged physical abuse”.
Though little is known about the children’s education, some of them were able to read and write. David Turpin registered a private school in their California home, known as Sandcastle Day School.
Police have obtained hundreds of journals that the children were allowed to write in.
Before moving to California, the Turpins lived in Texas.
At one point, the parents allegedly lived in a different house from their children and would drop off food from time to time, officials said.
If found guilty of the dozens of charges against them, David and Louise Turpin face 94 years to life in prison, Mike Hestrin added.
The 13 children were found in an emaciated state in their filthy, foul-smelling house, police revealed earlier. Officers had at first thought all the children were minors but later realized some were frail and malnourished adults, they said.
Mike Hestrin said that when officers arrived, three of the couple’s children were chained to their beds.