A Perris, California couple accused of holding their thirteen children, captive in what officials are calling 'inhumane conditions' have been charged with dozens of felonies including; torture, child abuse, and false imprisonment.
David Turpin was also charged for a single charge of a lewd act with a child under 14. Prosecutors did not give details about the charge, other than saying that Turpin "he touched one of the victims in a lewd way using force or fear,'' adding that it was one of the female underage children.
Both pleaded 'not guilty' at a hearing Thursday afternoon at a Riverside court. They were ordered held on bail of $12 million each. The Turpins appeared in court shackled and wearing dress clothes. A court conference was scheduled for Feb. 23rd.
If the parents are convicted of all charges, the couple face up to 94 years to life in prison.
D.A. Mike Hestrin told reporters at a press conference on Thursday that the investigation is likely to take some time and that "it's more important to get it right, than do it fast."
Hestrin revealed further details about the life the captive children had been forced to live through. He says the torture began when the family lived in Fort Worth, Texas and intensified when they moved to Murrieta, California in 2010. The family later moved to the home in Perris, California in 2014.
"The abuse and severe neglect intensified over time and intensified as they moved to California,'' Hestrin said.
The children were chained, bound up and even choked as a form of punishment. The siblings were initially bound with ropes, but the couple switched to padlocks and chains after they managed to escape several times.
According to prosecutors, the children would go to bed every day at around 4 or 5 a.m. in the morning, sleep all day, and then be up through the night.
Prosecutors said with the exception of the youngest child (a 2-year-old girl), many of the siblings demonstrated cognitive impairment as a result of the tortures and malnourishment. Although the children were home-schooled, the D.A. said several of the children lacked basic knowledge of life. "Many of the children didn't know what a police officer was," Hestrin said.
Hestrin also described the capricious process by which the siblings were punished by David and Louise Turpin. "If the children were found to have washed their hands above the wrist area, they were accused of playing in the water and were chained up."
A 17-year-old who managed to crawl out a bedroom window and alert authorities to the house of horrors on Sunday, had been reportedly planning her escape for the last two years with another sibling. One of them escaped with her, but turned back after getting scared.
"Sometimes in this business we're faced with looking at human depravity, and that's what we're looking at here,'' Hestrin said.
The House of Horrors was discovered late Sunday afternoon after one of the children, a 17-year-old girl, managed to escape through a window and call 911 with a cellphone taken from the home.
"Further investigation revealed several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings, but the parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in that manner,” the department said in a statement.
Detectives say they were shocked to discover the ages of the emaciated children, several of whom, were actually adults ranging in age from 18-29.
Photos: Getty Images and Riverside County Sheriff's Office