A Perris couple accused of imprisoning and torturing 12 of their 13 children did not, as expected, re-enter pleas Friday to nearly 50 felony charges after their attorneys requested a delay to prepare a motion for the court to consider.
David Allen Turpin, 56, and Louise Ann Turpin, 49, were each ordered last month to stand trial on 12 counts of torture and false imprisonment, as well as eight counts of child abuse and seven counts of cruelty to a dependent adult.
David Turpin was additionally held to answer on eight counts of perjury and one count of lewd acts on a child, while Louise Turpin alone was held to answer on one count of assault resulting in great bodily injury.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz convened a post-preliminary hearing arraignment for the pair to enter guilty or not guilty pleas to the pretrial charges, but the defendants’ attorneys requested a postponement in order to prepare a motion that may challenge the validity of some of the allegations. Schwartz agreed to a four-week delay, rescheduling the hearing to Aug. 31 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
Each defendant is being held in lieu on $12 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside. They’re facing nearly 100 years behind bars if convicted.
The couple’s 17-year-old daughter, Jordan, escaped the family’s Muir Woods Road residence on Jan. 14 and told a 911 dispatcher her two younger sisters were “chained up to their beds,” shackled so tightly their bodies were bruised, according to testimony from the June 20-21 preliminary hearing.
“They chain us up if we do things we’re not supposed to,” the girl said in a conversation with a 911 dispatcher, played in court. “Sometimes, my sisters wake up and start crying (because of the pain). I called you so you can help my sisters.”
Along with the 911 recording, the prosecution called sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Campos to testify regarding his Jan. 14 interview with the victim.
“Her hair appeared to be unwashed. There was dirt caked on her skin. The odor emitting from her body was that of someone who doesn’t bathe,” Campos testified.
The deputy said the girl admitted “being scared to death” about fleeing her home, but felt desperate to get out and leaped from an open window.
Jordan told the deputy she also couldn’t bear hearing her mother call one of the girls “the devil” for sobbing in pain.
“Jordan said she believed in God and was a good Christian, and hearing her mother say `devil’ really bothered her a lot,” Campos testified.
He said the teenager had been planning an escape for two years and was ultimately able to procure a mobile phone discarded by her older brother, 25-year-old Joshua Turpin. She used it to snap pictures of her younger sisters chained to beds, exhibited in court.
Campos said the victim told him that her sisters had been shackled to their beds because they were caught by Louise Turpin snatching candy from the kitchen — verboten under the house “rules.”
According to the deputy, the girl described a compulsory sleep schedule of 20 hours a day and a middle-of-the-night meal — combination “lunch and dinner” — that consisted of peanut butter sandwiches, chips and microwave-heated burritos.
The girl’s only exercise was pacing back and forth in the room she shared with her two younger sisters, according to Campos.
He said the filth and stench in the bedroom was so overwhelming that the teen told him she often couldn’t breathe and had to stick her head out the window for relief.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in January the victims were allowed to shower only once a year.
The siblings were virtually imprisoned, according to testimony, and the only time they were free to leave their assigned quarters was when both parents were out of the house.
D.A.’s office Investigator Wade Walsvick testified that all but one of the victims were severely malnourished, with the average weight deficit at 32 pounds.
Walsvick testified that when he spoke to the oldest son, the victim revealed how he and his siblings were locked inside cages if their parents became angry with them. There were alleged beatings with paddles, “hitting on the face, slapping, pushing and being thrown across the room or to the ground,” the witness said.
The children, whose ages range from 2 to 29, are in the care of county Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services staff. Most of them were hospitalized in January for treatment, but they have since been released and placed in undisclosed residential facilities, according to county officials. Only the 2-year-old appeared to be in good health.
Sheriff’s investigators said the family moved to Murrieta in 2010, then to Perris in 2014. They had previously resided in Fort Worth, Texas.
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