The teenage girl who called 911 to alert authorities that she and her 12 siblings were allegedly being abused inside their California home was told to address her parents as “mother” and “father” — “because it was more like the Bible days,” an investigator testified Wednesday.
That revelation emerged during a preliminary hearing in the case against the parents, David and Louise Turpin, who face numerous charges after their teen daughter snuck out of her bedroom window in their Perris home and summoned authorities on Jan. 14 with a 911 call on a disconnected cell phone.
The 911 call recording was aired publicly for the first time Wednesday in a Riverside County courtroom, where Manuel Campos, a sheriff’s deputy, also testified about statements the teen made when she was interviewed that January day at the Perris police station.
The girl appeared to have the speech patterns of someone much younger than 17 years old, Campos said.
She wore a pink hat, blue jeans and white shoes, with dirty skin and hair that appeared to be unwashed, and “had an odor emitting from her body of someone who didn’t bathe regularly,” Campos testified.
He also noticed a scar on her foot.
“She did have trouble pronouncing words [and] referred to her parents as mother and father. She said she was taught to address them that way because it was more like the Bible days,” Campos testified.
Leaving her family’s home to summon authorities was terrifying, the teen said, according to Campos. It was “one of the scariest things she had ever done.”
According to Campos, the girl called 911 because “she said she couldn’t stay and watch her two sisters chained up and crying,” Campos testified.
According to court testimony Wednesday, three Turpin siblings had been chained in the home: two sisters and a brother.
• 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.
“It was hurting her and depressing her and she couldn’t watch it anymore,” Campos continued. “She said [one sister] was crying, everyone was crying and mother was yelling at everybody. [The sister] told her mother called her the devil.”
Capos said the teen “boldly spoke about her love for God, and said she was a big Christian, and when she heard her mother call [her sibling] the devil, it really bothered her and hurt her a lot.”
At the time of their parents’ January arrest following the 911 call, the Turpin children ranged in age from 2 to 29.
According to Campos, the teen girl had been trying to obtain a cell phone and was finally successful after her older brother received a brand new phone, allowing her to get his old one.
David and Louise 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 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.
One of their attorneys has publicly noted that both are presumed innocent until convicted. Beyond that, the defense has not commented specifically on the case to PEOPLE.