A California couple who shackled some of their 13 children to beds and starved them have pleaded guilty to torture and other abuse in a “house of horrors” case.
David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty in Riverside County Superior Court to 14 counts which included abusing minor and adult children and imprisoning them in their house, which appeared to be neatly kept from the outside.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 19.
The couple were arrested in January 2018 when their 17-year-old daughter called police after escaping from the family home in the city of Perris, south-east of Los Angeles.
The children, who ranged in age from two to 29 at the time, were severely underweight and had not bathed for months, while the house reeked of human waste.
Investigators said some of the children had stunted growth and wasted muscles and had described being beaten, starved and put in cages.
In a recording of the emergency call played in court last year, the girl who escaped said two younger sisters and a brother were chained to their beds and she could not take it any longer.
“They will wake up at night and they will start crying and they wanted me to call somebody,” she said. “I wanted to call y’all so y’all can help my sisters.”
The intervention by authorities marked a new start for the 13 Turpin offspring who lived in such isolation that some did not even understand the role of the police when they arrived at the house.
Two girls, aged 11 and 14, had been hastily released from their chains when police showed up, but a 22-year-old son remained shackled.
The young man said he and his siblings had been suspected of stealing food and being disrespectful, a detective testified.
The man said he had been tied up with ropes at first and then, after learning to wriggle free, was restrained with increasingly larger chains on and off over six years.
Authorities said the children were deprived of food and things other youngsters take for granted, such as toys and games, and were allowed to do little except write in journals.
An investigator testified that some suffered from severe malnutrition and muscle wasting, including an 11-year-old girl who had arms the size of an infant.
The 17-year-old had difficulty pronouncing some words and spoke like a much younger child.
They were rarely allowed outside, though they went out on Halloween and travelled as a family to Disneyland and Las Vegas, investigators said.
The children spent most of their time locked in their rooms except for limited meals or using the toilet.
All the children were taken to hospital immediately after they were discovered. Riverside County authorities then obtained temporary conservatorship over the adults.
A lawyer for some of the children said they were relieved after their parents pleaded guilty.
Jack Osborn represents seven adults among the 13 children and said they can now move forward with their lives without the stress a trial would have involved.
He said the children have been living together, attending school, getting healthy and leading normal lives.