The father of 13 children held in captivity in California has been charged with carrying out a lewd act against a child, as it emerged that the 17-year-old who raised the alarm had plotted her escape for two years.
Appearing before a judge in Riverside on Thursday afternoon, Mr and Mrs Turpin plead not guilty to all charges against them.
The pair were led in chains into Judge Michael Donner’s courtroom in Riverside, wearing prison-issue black long-sleeved clothes.
The couple were given two different lawyers to represent them, allowing each to claim the other has more culpability if they wish, according to Mrs Turpin’s attorney Jeff Moore.
David Macher, the public defender representing Mr Turpin, admitted it would be “a challenge” to defend his client.
But, he added: “Our clients are presumed to be innocent. It’s a very important assumption and it applies to each and every one of you. We’re going to apply a vigorous defence to Mr Turpin.”
When asked by a reporter why Mr Turpin appeared dazed, Mr Macher said he was “not in a position to discuss his mental state in public at this time.”
Mr Macher had attempted to block live broadcast of video from the courtroom, but Judge Donner denied his request, saying that the coverage had already “spanned the globe”.
Prosecutors detailing the case against David and Louise Turpin said that the house contained hundreds of journals kept by the children, which they believe will be crucial in building a case against the parents.
Mr Turpin, 57, and his wife, 49, are charged with abuse dating back to 2010.
Michael Hestrin, Riverside County district attorney, said that both Mr and Mrs Turpin were charged on Thursday morning with 12 counts of torture and 12 counts of false imprisonment.
“Right now we are charging one count of a lewd act,” said Mr Hestrin.
“The charge is a lewd act on a child under 14. We are alleging that Mr Turpin touched one of the children in a lewd way.”
The pair had 13 children, aged two to 29, but the charges were not in relation to the two-year-old, who appears, prosecutors said, to have been spared the treatment inflicted on their siblings.
In addition, the couple face seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, and six counts of child abuse.
“This is severe emotional and physical abuse,” he said. “This is depraved conduct.”
The horrific abuse was discovered when one of the children, a 17-year-old girl, escaped by climbing out a window of the house and calling police from a disconnected mobile phone.
Mr Hestrin said the girl had been planning the escape with one of her sisters for two years.
The sister climbed out of the window with her, but turned back out of fear, he said.
“The 17-year-old had been working on a plan with her sibling to escape the abuse for more than two years,” said Mr Hestrin.
“She took her sibling with her through window, but that sibling became frightened and went back.”
Police congratulated the girl on her bravery.
Mr Hestrin alleged that the children, currently in hospital, were nocturnal – typically going to sleep around 5am and sleeping all day, and then being awake all night.
Their parents would only let them shower once a year, he claimed.
Mr Hestrin claimed the Turpins would lock up their children for weeks on end as a “form of punishment”, and left them severely malnourished after feeding them just once a day.
“As a punishment starting many years ago they began to be tied up, first with ropes,” said Mr Hestrin. “One victim was tied up and hog tied. When that victim was able to escape the ropes the defendants started using chains and padlocks.
“These punishments would last for weeks or even months,” he alleged.
“The victims were often not released from their chains to go to the bathroom.”
Mr Hestrin claimed all 13 of the children were hospitalised with “severe caloric malnutrition connected with muscle wasting.”
The oldest child, a 29-year-old woman, weighed just five stone (82lbs) when she was rescued by police.
Doctors said some of the children were suffering from cognitive neuropathy as a result of the abuse, meaning their mental age was much lower than their real age.
Mr Hestrin claimed the children were also subject to “frequent beatings and even strangulation” as punishment for washing.
“If the children were found to wash their hands above the wrist area they would be accused of playing in the water and would be locked up,” said the district attorney.
Mr and Mrs Turpin would buy food for themselves, but not for the children, Mr Hestrin said.
They would further torture their hungry family by leaving food out in their line of sight.
“The parents would buy food for themselves – pies, pumpkin pies, apple pies; leave it on the counter and not let the children eat it,” he said.
He added that the children were not allowed to play.
“They were not allowed toys, although there were many toys in the house in their original packaging, and never opened,” he said.
The pair were arrested on Sunday after the 17-year-old escaped from their home in Perris, climbing out of a window and alerting the police.
On arriving at the house they found that two of the children – an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old – had been freed by their siblings. A 22-year-old was still chained to the bed when police entered.
Bail has been set at $13 million for each of the defendants.
“If convicted of all charges, they face 94 (years) up to life in prison,” Mr Hestrin told reporters in Riverside.
On Thursday afternoon the couple will appear in court, and are expected to face charges of torture and child endangerment.
Article Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/18/david-turpin-charged-lewd-act-against-child-revealed-17-year/