California siblings ‘starved, shackled, taunted with food’

Washington, Jan 19 : The 13 children imprisoned by their parents for years in their squalid California home were starved, shackled with padlocks and their parents even taunted them by placing pies at a place where the kids could see them but would not be able to eat them, authorities said.

David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin, 49, lived with their children between ages 2 and 29 in Perris, southeast of Los Angeles.

What started as neglect escalated into years of horrific torture, authorities said on Thursday, with the parents allegedly depriving the children of water and feeding them small portions of food on a strict schedule, CNN reported.

They’d sleep during the day and stay awake at night, sometimes chained to their beds and not allowed to use the restroom, the authorities said.

After years of alleged abuse, the couple’s daughter escaped from their home on Sunday and called 911. Investigators went to the house and freed the children, prompting days of investigations that led to a series of charges.

The couple were arrested earlier this week and were charged with 12 counts of torture. Other charges included seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse or neglect and 12 counts of false imprisonment.

The Turpins appeared in court on Thursday after prosecutors detailed the horrific abuse allegations against them.

David Turpin was also charged with a lewd act on a child by force or fear of duress. However, the couple pleaded not guilty on all counts and a judge set bail at $12 million for each defendant.

The siblings showered once a year and were chained to their beds for weeks at a time, said Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin.

They were allegedly punished when they washed their hands above their wrists, and beaten regularly, he said. The parents would buy toys, the prosecutor said, but keep them in the packaging.

Hestrin said the alleged punishments would last weeks or months, and intensified over time. “They would buy food, including pies — apple pies, pumpkin pies — leave it on the counter, let the children look at it, but not eat the food.”

“Circumstantial evidence in the house suggests that the victims were often not released from their chains to go to the bathroom,” the official said.

They had never seen a dentist and had not visited a doctor in over four years. The children lacked basic knowledge of life, Hestrin said.

One of the victims is age 12 and is the weight of a 7-year-old while the 29-year-old was 82 pounds, he said.

The children were being treated in hospital since being freed on Monday.

If convicted of all charges, the Turpins face a maximum sentence of between 94 years and life in prison. Their next court date is February 23.

IANS

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