RIVERSIDE (CNS) - A preliminary hearing will be held today to determine if there is enough evidence for a Perris couple accused of imprisoning and starving 12 of their 13 children to stand trial.
David Allen Turpin, 56, and his wife, 49-year-old Louise Ann Turpin, are each charged with 12 counts of torture and false imprisonment, as well as nine counts of child abuse and seven counts of cruelty to a dependent adult.
David Turpin is additionally charged with eight counts of perjury and an allegation of lewd acts on a child under 14 years old.
Louise Turpin is also charged with one count of assault resulting in great bodily injury.
Today's hearing before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz will determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant a trial. The Turpins would both face 94 years to life in prison if convicted.
Each defendant is being held in lieu of $12 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
Their children, whose ages range from 2 to 29, are in the care of county Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services staff. Most of them were hospitalized in January for treatment of malnourishment and other disorders, but they have since been released and placed in undisclosed residential facilities, according to county officials.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in January that the siblings suffered severe neglect and the alleged prolonged harm left them physically and cognitively impaired.
Hestrin acknowledged that while the abuse was extreme, there's no evidence the Turpins had an intent to kill. The county's top prosecutor wouldn't reveal a possible motive, only alluding to an alleged pattern of behavior that pointed to the defendants' gratification from manipulation.
Louise Turpin's younger sister, Teresa Robinette, told reporters that she believed the parents' abusive behavior may have begun after they started drinking and experimenting with an unconventional lifestyle, including plans for sexual escapades involving other people.
The alleged mistreatment of the children at the family's Muir Woods Road residence involved choking and beatings, according to Hestrin, who said the punishments worsened, particularly after the family moved to California. He said the children were initially bound with ropes, but when they figured out how to free themselves from those bindings, the couple switched to chains and padlocks.
The siblings were allowed to shower once a year, and if they washed their hands above the wrist, they were chained up as punishment, Hestrin said.
According to sheriff's investigators, the family moved to Murrieta in 2010, then to Perris in 2014. They had previously resided in Fort Worth, Texas, and were reportedly preparing to relocate to Oklahoma, which may have prompted the defendants' 17-year-old daughter to flee the home and seek help.
The girl escaped shortly before 6 a.m. Jan. 14, carrying a deactivated mobile phone with which she was able to dial 911, according to sheriff's Capt. Greg Fellows. She told dispatchers her brothers and sisters were in distress, and when deputies arrived, she presented them with photographs documenting conditions inside the residence, the captain said.
Fellows said three children were found chained to furniture.
The couple was not charged with torturing their 2-year-old, who appeared in good health.
The lewd acts charge against David Turpin stemmed from his alleged molestation of one of the girls.
The perjury counts were added after investigators examined papers that David Turpin filed with the California Department of Education over a seven- year span. He stated that his children were being home-schooled when, in fact, there was no curriculum, prosecutors allege.
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