Perris torture case: Turpin couple ordered to stand trial on torture, child abuse charges

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Friday, June 22, 2018
Perris couple to stand trial on torture, child abuse charges
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A Riverside County judge ruled Thursday that there is sufficient evidence for a Perris couple to stand trial for torturing and abusing their children.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- A couple accused of abusing and torturing 12 of their 13 children in a Perris home, to the point most were emaciated and barely educated, were ordered Thursday to stand trial on all but one of 50 counts, including child abuse and false imprisonment.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz ruled there is sufficient evidence for David Turpin, 56, and his wife, 49-year-old Louise Turpin, to stand trial.

Thursday was the second day of a preliminary hearing, which took place while seven adult children of the Turpin couple were in a separate courtroom at a guardianship proceeding.

RELATED: 911 call in Perris torture case played in court, disturbing details of alleged abuse released

Prosecutors presented evidence that the couple chained their 12 children to bed as punishment and deprived them of food. Schwartz dismissed an abuse charge pertaining to their youngest daughter, age 2.

Before the hearing began, a pool camera captured a glimpse of the reverse side of a photo that was later shown during the proceedings.

The judge has not sealed the photo as evidence, but the district attorney's office does not want it released.

The couple has pleaded not guilty to torture, child abuse and all other charges. David Turpin has also been charged with eight counts of perjury for filing false affidavits certifying that their children were receiving a full-time education in a private day school. He also faces one count of lewd acts on a child.

Authorities have said the Turpin home reeked of human waste and the evidence of starvation was obvious, with the oldest of 13 siblings weighing just 82 pounds. The children were shackled as punishment, denied food and toys and allowed to do little except write in journals, prosecutors have said.

PHOTOS: Inside the Texas home where Perris siblings lived years ago

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A photo shows the inside of a home in Fort Worth, Texas, where the Turpin family once lived.

Doctors who examined the children, ranging from 2 to 29 years old, found signs of severe malnutrition and muscle wasting. Some couldn't speak well and a 12-year-old girl didn't know the full alphabet.

The couple was arrested after their 17-year-old daughter climbed out of a window to escape the family's Perris home in January and called 911. The case has since drawn international attention.

At Wednesday's court hearing, the chilling 911 call was played. The teen, who spelled out her last name incorrectly as "Turpen" on the call, was able to tell the 911 operator her zip code and said "I've never been out."

She was also heard pleading on the call for someone to come and save her siblings.

"They woke up at night and started crying...I wanted to call you all so you can help my sisters," she told the 911 dispatcher.

The girl told sheriff's Deputy Manuel Campos that she hadn't bathed in a year and that she didn't know the date or the month, he testified Wednesday.

Horrific testimony of starvation, squalor and bizarre punishment was presented over two days. Photos surreptitiously taken by the teenager showed two pale, malnourished girls shackled to bunk beds.

The teenager said her mother would punish her. Those punishments consisted of getting knocked on her head, pulling on her hair, getting hit and smacked in the face, pushed and choked, Campos testified.

The deputy said the teen recalled a time when she was watching a Justin Bieber video and her mother told her, "Do you want to die? Yes, you do, you want to die. You want to die and go to hell."

Prosecutors Thursday discussed alleged physical abuse the children sustained while previously living in Texas. They said it started with slapping and hitting, before it progressed to a belt, the buckle-end of the belt and then an oar or paddle. If that didn't work, David Turpin would allegedly use a switch; if that didn't work, he would allegedly place the kids in cages and eventually dog cages.

The Turpins have pleaded not guilty. Arraignment has been scheduled for Aug. 3.

MORE: Outline of accusations against Turpin parents

The couple is being held on $12 million bail each. If convicted, both could be sentenced to life in prison.

City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.