The alleged abuse and malnutrition endured by the Turpin siblings at the hands of their parents resulted in stunted growth, “low cognition,” and “severe skeletal abnormalities,” investigators testified on Wednesday.
Prosecutors have said all 13 of the siblings were abused and most of them were held captive and tortured in their suburban Perris, California, home. The children ranged in age from 2 to 29 when their parents, David and Louise Turpin, were arrested in January.
At Wednesday’s preliminary hearing for the Turpin parents, investigators with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office who spoke with doctors treating the siblings at area hospitals painted a disturbing portrait of the debilitating long-term effects of the alleged abuse.
One of the adult female children was 35 lbs. underweight and suffered from “severe protein caloric malnutrition, numbness and weakness in extremities,” as well as “severe skeletal abnormalities,” investigator Wade Walsvick testified, based on his conversation with a doctor in the Corona Regional Medical Center who treated all seven adult siblings.
Like other siblings, the adult woman suffered from “low cognition and cachexia, a muscle-wasting syndrome,” Walsvick said.
The woman also had “severe skeletal abnormalities,” he testified.
According to testimony by prosecutor investigator Patrick Morris, who spoke with doctors with the Riverside Health System treating the younger Turpin siblings, one pre-teen girl was also severely underweight and suffered from low cognition and cachexia.
Morris said on the stand that she was so skinny, her mid-upper arm “was equivalent to a 4½-month-old.”
He added that the girl had liver damage due to malnutrition and had “social dwarfism — a stunted growth damage due to malnutrition.”
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Another pre-teen girl was referred to speech therapy “because she was difficult to understand, and [the doctor] attributed it to lack of socialization,” Morris said. And a teenage male sibling had “an abnormal gait” possibly caused by “severe caloric malnutrition” and also suffered from social dwarfism.
Walsvick testified that two adult siblings — one male and one female — “shuffled as they walked” and were prone to bone fractures.
Various adult siblings were 47, 39, 35 and 20 lbs. underweight, respectively.
The alleged abuse was first reported by the family’s 17-year-old daughter, who escaped out her bedroom window early on Jan. 14 before calling 911 with a smuggled cell phone.
David and Louise Turpin each face 12 counts of torture as well as seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, nine counts of child abuse or neglect and 12 counts of false imprisonment.
David is additionally accused of a lewd act against a child and perjury, for allegedly lying about his children’s schooling. Louise has also been charged with felony assault.
They remain in custody in lieu of $12 million bail each after pleading not guilty to all of their charges.
At Wednesday’s hearing, an investigator being questioned by David’s attorney Allison Lowe acknowledged one of the siblings said she was never completely deprived of food for an entire day.
One of the Turpins’ attorneys has publicly noted that both are presumed innocent until convicted. Beyond that, the defense has not commented specifically on the case to PEOPLE.