The California couple accused of binding their children with chains and starving them into stunted growth and diminished mental capacities have pleaded not guilty to all charges against them.
David and Louise Turpin sat without expression in a Riverside courtroom Thursday where they were arraigned on 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abusing a dependent adult and 12 counts of false imprisonment.
A separate charge of performing a lewd act on a child under 14 by force or fear was filed against David Turpin. Authorities said it involved a female child, but no other details were released.
In a crowded hearing lasting only about seven minutes, the parents of 13 children, ranging in age from 2 to 29, said little. They softly answered “yes” when asked by their attorneys if they understood and agreed to a stipulation waiving their rights to a speedy preliminary hearing.
Their next court appearance was scheduled for Feb. 23.
Both wore dark suits and had their hands shackled to their waists.
Their attorneys did not speak to reporters after the hearing.
Earlier in the day, a prosecutor held a press conference to detail allegations against the couple. Both were arrested over the weekend after a 17-year-old daughter escaped their home with a cell phone and called 911 to report she and her siblings were being held as prisoners inside their suburban tract house in Perris, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin told journalists the Turpins did not allow their children to bathe regularly, chained them to pieces of furniture as punishment and did not allow them to use a bathroom to relieve themselves.
The siblings also suffered diminished cognitive abilities, Hestrin said.
Authorities said the children, with the exception of the 2-year-old, were severely malnourished and only allowed one meal a day. The parents bought desserts such as pumpkin and apple pie, and ate them in front of the children without letting them have any, Hestrin said.
Only the toddler appeared well fed, Hestrin said. The investigation is ongoing and additional charges could be filed, authorities said. There were several toys in the house, he said, but many were still in their original packaging and the children were not allowed to play with them.
He said the case was steeped in “human depravity. That’s what we’re looking at here.”