House Of Horrors Parents Plead NOT GUILTY To Abusing 13 Kids
A California couple tortured a dozen of their children for years, starving them to the point that their growth was stunted, chaining them to their beds for months at a time and forbidding them from showering more than once a year or using the toilet.
"The victimisation appeared to intensify over time," Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in announcing charges against the pair.
"What started out as neglect became severe, pervasive, prolonged child abuse."
David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin, 49, were charged with multiple counts of torture, child abuse, dependent adult abuse and false imprisonment.
David Turpin was also charged with performing a lewd act on a child under age 14.
The house of horrors apparently went unnoticed for years in California and Texas until Sunday, when a 17-year-old girl managed to escape and call authorities.
The girl and her siblings had plotted the escape for two years, Hestrin said.
When deputies arrived at the house in Perris, about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles, they were shocked by what they found.
Malnutrition was so severe that it was consistent with muscle wasting and had led to cognitive impairment and nerve damage, Hestrin said.
The oldest child, a 29-year-old woman, weighed just 37 kilos.
All the children's names begin with the letter J, according to court documents that didn't provide their full names.
The parents were jailed on $US12 million bail each after pleading not guilty at their first court appearance on Thursday.
If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.
David Turpin's lawyer, deputy public defender David Macher, said the case was going to be a challenge.
"It's a very serious case," he said.
"Our clients are presumed to be innocent, and that is a very important presumption."
Judge Michael Donner rejected Macher's request to ban cameras from the courtroom, saying news coverage of the case is already worldwide.
The abuse began with the children being tied to beds with ropes and then hog-tied, Hestrin said.
When one child was able to wriggle free, the couple began restraining them with chains and padlocks for up to months at a time, Hestrin said.
The children never received dental care, and when the girl who escaped was asked if any pills were in the home, she did not understand what medication was.
While the children were deprived of food, the parents ate well and even taunted the children by putting apple and pumpkin pies on the kitchen counter, but not letting them have any, Hestrin said.