Fri, Jun 22, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Court hears details in California sibling torture case

AP, RIVERSIDE, California

Louise Turpin, right, appears during a preliminary hearing in Riverside Superior Court on Wednesday in Riverside, California.

Photo: AP / Los Angeles Times

In a plea to a police dispatcher to “help my sisters,” a 17-year-old girl in a quivering voice detailed years of abuse she and her 12 siblings suffered in a squalid house where she said they were shackled to beds, choked and the stench was suffocating.

The 911 call was on Wednesday played in a California court during a hearing to determine if her mother and father should face trial on child abuse charges in a case that attracted worldwide attention following their arrests last winter.

The girl was heard saying that two younger sisters and a brother were chained to their beds and she could not take it any longer.

“They will wake up at night and they will start crying and they wanted me to call somebody,” she said in a high-pitched voice. “I wanted to call y’all so y’all can help my sisters.”

David and Louise Turpin have pleaded not guilty to torture, child abuse and other charges. They are being held on US$12 million bail each.

The 911 call in January marked a new start for the 13 Turpin offspring — aged two to 29 — who lived in such isolation that some did not even understand the role of the police when they arrived at the house in Perris, California.

Two girls, 11 and 14, had been hastily released from their chains when police arrived, but a 22-year-old son remained shackled.

The young man said he and his siblings had been suspected of stealing food and being disrespectful, detective Thomas Salisbury said.

He said he had been tied up with ropes at first and then, after learning to wriggle free, restrained with increasingly larger chains on and off for six years.

The children were deprived of food and things other kids take for granted, such as toys and games, authorities said, adding that they were allowed to do little except write in journals that might corroborate the horrific stories they told investigators.

Some were severely malnourished, investigator Patrick Morris said, adding that an 11-year-old girl who was shackled to a bed had arms the size of an infant.

The 17-year-old, who said she had not finished first grade, had difficulty pronouncing some words and spoke like a much younger child.

The girl planned her escape for two years and was terrified as she climbed out a window to freedom, Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Campos testified.

“She couldn’t even dial 911, because she was so scared that she was shaking,” he said.

She did not know the neighborhood and had to read her address to the dispatcher off a piece of paper, prosecutors said, adding that the kids were rarely allowed outside, although they went out on Halloween and traveled as a family to Disneyland and Las Vegas.

She said she had not bathed in a year and Campos observed dirt caked on her skin and a stench.

The girl referred to her parents as “mother” and “father,” because she said it was “more like the Bible days,” he said.

She reported that her father pulled down her pants and put her on his clothed lap in a recliner chair in the TV room when she was 12.

She said she did not like it and pulled up her pants, and that he told her not tell anyone, Campos said.

If the children did not obey strict rules, they were slapped in the face or had their hair pulled, the girl told Campos.

The eldest son told authorities that discipline included beatings with the leather or buckle end of a belt, Riverside County District Attorney’s Office senior investigator Wade Walsvick said.

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