When Riverside County law enforcement officers first entered the Turpin home Sunday and liberated the family’s 13 children from a hellish existence, they believed all 13 were minors, just based on physical appearance. It turned out that the oldest, a female, was 29 years old, but due to extreme malnourishment weighed just 82 pounds.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin held a press conference Thursday to announce the charges filed against David and Louise Turpin and gave new heartbreaking and horrific details about what law enforcement officials found.

Each parent was charged with 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse/neglect, and 12 counts of false imprisonment. In addition, David Turpin was charged with one count of a lewd act with a child by force or fear or duress. Hestrin declined to give any details on the lewd act charge, stating that the victims had already been through enough and he wasn’t going to victimize them further by sharing those details.

After interviews with the victims, authorities said the abuse started when the family lived in Texas, prior to 2010. At that time the parents started tying the children up with ropes as a form of punishment, and over the years the punishment and torture escalated. By the time they were freed, the victims had been tortured and abused in essentially every way possible.

On that day, when law enforcement officials arrived, three of the victims were chained up. The parents were able to unchain two of them by the time police entered the residence, but the third, a 22-year-old, remained chained to a bed. These punishments could last for weeks or months at a time, Hestrin said, and “circumstantial evidence suggests that victims were often not released from their chains to go to the bathroom.”

Hestrin shared other details of their captivity and its results:

  • All suffered from severe malnourishment, causing cognitive deficits, muscle wasting, and neuropathy.
  • They were homeschooled, but many lacked a basic understanding of how the world worked, such as not knowing what a police officer was.
  • They were not allowed to shower more than once a year.
  • None of the victims have ever seen a dentist.
  • They were fed very little, and on a schedule.
  • The parents would buy food for themselves, even things such as pies or cakes, and leave them on the counter for the children to see and smell but wouldn’t allow them to eat.
  • The children were not allowed to have toys, but toys were found throughout the house in their original packaging.
  • Punishment included frequent beatings and strangulation.

The only thing the children were allowed to do is write in journals. Investigators have recovered those journals, “hundreds of them,” and are combing through them for more evidence.

All of the victims are currently in the hospital due to their malnourished condition. Riverside County Social Services and victim’s advocates from the District Attorney’s office are working together to ensure the victims get the physical and emotional help they need.

When a reporter asked Hestrin why the Turpins did this, after giving the reporter an “Are you kidding me?” look, gave an answer that anyone who has ever worked in criminal law completely understands:

“I don’t know that I can answer that completely, but I can tell you that as a prosecutor there are cases that stick with you, that haunt you. Sometimes we are faced with looking at human depravity, and that’s what we’re looking at here.”

I don’t think there is a punishment severe enough for the parents, other than subjecting them to the same treatment for the rest of their lives. I have a feeling, though, that when they get to prison their fellow inmates might have a few ideas.