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Parents accused of torturing their 13 children face new charges

David and Louise Turpin pleaded not guilty to multiple felony charges on Jan. 18, but authorities say the Turpin's 13 children were starved and held captive. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)
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The 13 Turpin siblings gained their freedom last month after one of them escaped through a window and called 911, ending years of imprisonment under parents accused of starving and chaining them to their beds in a putrid home not far from Los Angeles.

But investigators warned that gaining the trust of the socially stunted siblings would be a protracted process: They were accustomed to beatings and hadn’t been to a dentist or doctor in years. When police officers stormed into the house, freeing the remaining chained Turpin children, the captives had no concept of what a police officer was.

“Victims in these kinds of cases, they tell their story, but they tell it slowly; they tell it at their own pace,” Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin told the Associated Press last month. “It will come out when it comes out.”

As the Turpin children grow to trust their liberators, court officials said, they might open up more — and possibly reveal more about life in the Southern California house.

Prosecutors on Friday said that as a result of the ongoing investigation, they have charged David Allen Turpin and Louise Anna Turpin, who are married, each with three additional charges of child abuse, according to the Los Angeles Times. Louise Turpin has also been charged with felony assault.

In total, Louise and David Turpin each face about 40 charges, including a dozen counts of torture and another dozen counts of false imprisonment. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and continue to be held on $12 million bail apiece in a jail in Riverside, Calif.

Last month, a Riverside judge barred the parents from contacting the children for the next three years, including by phone or electronically. They can’t be within 100 yards of their children or attempt to get their addresses, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Their lawyers could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Authorities said the children, for reasons still unclear, were starved for years and held captive in a dirty, smelly house in Perris, Calif. If they misbehaved, they were tied to their beds as punishment — first with a rope and later, after one wriggled free, with chains and padlocks — and were kept from using the bathroom, prosecutors said.

Publicly, the Turpins appeared to be a big, busy, happy family. At a Christmas decorating contest two years ago, Louise Turpin gleefully talked about her expansive family and was even talking about having a 14th child, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Their children wore matching outfits in smile-filled photos of family outings. Louise and David Turpin had renewed their wedding vows at least three times in their 33 years of marriage. The most recent was in 2015, when the couple slow-danced to “Can’t Help Falling In Love” sung by an Elvis impersonator. Their daughters attended the wedding wearing matching purple plaid dresses with ribbon belts; their sons wore identical black suits and red ties.

“She would tell us the kids are doing great. She was real busy home-schooling,” Louise’s brother, Billy Lambert, told People magazine. “She told us David was making two or three hundred thousand [dollars] a year, so we thought they had this awesome life and always going on trips.”

A look at the lives of 13 siblings held captive in a house full of chains — and what comes next

But the reality was different, authorities say. Records show that the Turpins were thousands of dollars in debt. They filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy at least twice — in 1992 in Fort Worth and in 2011 in Riverside. Court documents say David Turpin made about $140,000 as an engineer, while his wife stayed at home.

The family had also lived in Murrieta, Calif., where neighbor Mike Clifford said he often spotted the children through a window on the second floor at night. They would march in circles, over and over, for long periods of time, he told the Times.

“It was kind of strange, [but] there was never anything to say, ‘Oh, my God. I should call somebody,’ ” said Clifford, who did not immediately return a call from The Washington Post.

A man who said he attended elementary school in Fort Worth with one of the Turpin daughters remembered a frail girl who wore the same dirty purple outfit every day and tied her hair with a Hershey’s bar wrapper — the girl “nobody wanted to be caught talking to.”

But the only ones who truly knew what went on inside the home were the Turpins and their children, ages 2 to 29. The eldest weighed just 89 pounds when she was rescued.

Others had been seeking to end their imprisonment. The emaciated teen who shimmied through the window had been plotting her escape for two years.

Now the Turpin children have strikingly different lives. They’re receiving medical and rehabilitative care at various facilities, and have been exposed to iPads and Harry Potter books, entertainment and technology they had been deprived of, according to People magazine.

“They are progressing well, and looking into the future, seeing where their lives could go — and they have the support system,” Corona Mayor Karen Spiegel, who works closely with the siblings’ nurses, told People. “They have the whole community behind them.”

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