LOS ANGELES – Riverside County authorities announced on Thursday that they have filed a total of 38 charges against David and Louise Turpin, the couple who kidnapped and abused their 13 children.
The charges include 12 counts each of torture and false imprisonment, seven counts of violation of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse or neglect and one count against the father alone for committing a lewd act on a minor.
If found guilty on all counts, the couple could be sentenced to up to 94 years behind bars.
The punishments – including beatings and being chained to their beds – would last for weeks and even months, on occasion, said Riverside County district attorney Michael Hestrin, who also detailed other violence, including strangulation, by Turpin, 57 and his wife, 49.
Authorities in the town of Perris acknowledged that they were trying to understand the motives that could have led the parents to imprison their children in their house and even chain three of them.
It seems to be a case of “depraved conduct,” including “severe ... emotional abuse” and “extreme and prolonged physical abuse,” toward the children, Hestrin said.
Residents of Perris, located 110 kilometers (about 68 miles) east of Los Angeles, have said they are devastated after learning on Monday that local authorities had discovered the abuse the couple was perpetrating on their children.
In an initial search of the home, police found that three of the children had been chained to their beds and were surrounded by a terrible stench indicating a seriously unhealthy environment.
The second aspect of the case that set off alarms for local authorities was the evident malnutrition suffered by the children who, because of their undernourishment, were initially identified as minors despite the fact that their ages ranged from 2 to 29.
The 29-year-old weighs only 37 kilograms (82 pounds), and the parents did not permit any of them to shower more than once a year.
Police found out about the family circumstances thanks to one of the children, a 17-year-old girl, who managed to escape from the home and called authorities from a telephone she had found in the house.
She said she had been trying to escape for two years, Hestrin said, adding that some of the children – who were ostensibly being home-schooled – had been kept in the dark about life in general and did not even know what a police officer was.
The family moved to Perris in 2014 after getting a home-schooling permit.
On the father’s Facebook page are posted many photos of the entire family in which the children are smiling in places like Disneyland.
The couple were slated to appear in court for the first time on Thursday and judicial authorities have set their bail at $13 million each.