RIVERSIDE, California. – Two pale, malnourished girls are photographed chained to a bunk bed. Their sister, who surreptitiously snapped the photos, hear the plead in a 911 call for someone to come and save her brothers and sisters.
“She will wake up at night and she starts to cry and she wanted me to call somebody,” the 17-year-old tells the dispatcher in a trembling, childish voice.
A judge reviewed the evidence at a preliminary hearing Wednesday to decide whether a California couple face trial on the allegations of the topics of most of their 13 children to a year of filth, hunger and bizarre abuse that included feeding moldy cakes and sometimes caging them as a punishment.
David and Louise Turpin have pleaded not guilty to torture, abuse of children and other charges. Each is being held on $12 million bail and could face up to life in prison, if convicted.
The couple was arrested in January after their 17-year-old daughter, who had two years planning an escape, and climbed out the window and left the house in Perris, then 911. By the time the police arrived at the house, 70 miles (113 kilometres southeast of Los Angeles, two girls of 11 and 14, was hastily released from their chains, when the police came, but a 22-year-old son was enthralled.
The young man said that he and his brothers and sisters had, was suspected of stealing food and disrespectful, Riverside County sheriff’s Det. Thomas Salisbury said. The man said he was tied up with ropes at the beginning, but later, after learning to wriggle free, restrained with larger chains on and off over a period of six years.
Prosecutors also showed photos of the girls that their 17-year-old sister was struck with an old mobile phone for the flight. The photos drew gasps from some of the court participants.
Sheriff’s deputy Daniel Brown said a daughter told him that she knew that her sister had contacted the police when she heard a knock at the door and saw flashing lights outside the window.
“She said that she was finally free,” Brown said.
Researchers testified that the Turpin children, ranging in age from 2 to 29, lived mainly in closed rooms and were devoid of food, toys, games, education, and most outside contact, apart from two family visits to Disneyland and Las Vegas.
The oldest son went to the classes at a local community college, but researchers have said that his mother waited outside the classroom and immediately brought him home after the lessons.
Senior investigators with the county district attorney’s office testified that doctors and medical records showed some of the children were severely malnourished and had the muscle, with a number of adult children which is 32 pounds (14.5 kilos underweight.
The 11-year-old girl was chained to her bed, and had a stunted growth from malnutrition, and her arms were the size of a child, researcher Patrick Morris said.
In her 20-minute 911 call, the 17-year-old, who escaped told the coordinator: “We don’t really do at school. I have not yet finished the first grade.”
The girl told the sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Campos that they had not bathed in a year and that they do not know the date or the month, he testified.
About two years ago, her mother suffocated the girl to watch a Justin Bieber video on a mobile phone borrowed from her sister, telling her: “You want to die and go to hell,” said Campos.
There was no breakfast, and most recently, the lunch and the dinner had to be combined in one meal which included peanut butter and bologna sandwiches, a frozen burrito and chips.
The girl said that she had recently started refusing peanut butter sandwiches “, because she starts to gag and start throwing,” Campos testified.
Melley reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalist Michael Balsamo contributed to this report from Los Angeles.