The California couple who allegedly abused and held captive their 13 children pleaded not guilty Thursday to torture, abuse, and false imprisonment charges.
David Allen Turpin, 56, and Louis Anna Turpin, 49, of Perris, were charged with 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse or neglect and 12 counts of false imprisonment, Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin said in a press release.
David Turpin was also charged with one count of lewd act on a child under the age of 14 by force, fear, or duress.
Both of the Turpins — who wore dark suits and, according to CBS News, showed no emotion at their arraignment — are next due in court Feb. 23.
If convicted, each faces up to 94 years to life in prison.
The Turpins were arrested after their 17-year-old daughter, who had allegedly been planning her escape for two years, climbed through one of the windows of their home early on Sunday and called 911 using a disconnected cell phone she had found, authorities have said.
Police allege that the 13 Turpin children — ranging in ages from 2 to 29 — were found living in squalor, with some “shackled” to furniture.
At a news conference Thursday, authorities alleged that the children were allowed to shower no more than once a year and were regularly fed very little. They alleged the kids were restrained by ropes and later chains as a form of punishment.
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Malnutrition apparently stunted their growth, Hestrin said. One of the victims, 12, has the weight of an average 7-year-old, police said. The 29-year-old victim weighed just 82 pounds when found.
Medical officials treating the siblings say they face a long recovery.
“In more than 20 years as a prosecutor in Riverside County, this is one of the most disturbing cases I’ve seen,” Hestrin said in his press release Thursday. “We are fully prepared to seek justice in this case and to do so in a way that protects all of these victims from further harm.”
“The animals, one white and one black, appear healthy and friendly and are leash-trained, according to Christina Avila, a senior animal control officer,” a press release from the City of Perris said of the two female one-year-old dogs, who are siblings.
Authorities released images of the two seemingly well-fed dogs, who are being put up for adoption.
Expecting high interest in the pair – who must be adopted together – the City of Perris will hold a raffle to place the dogs in a new home, according to the release.
Prosecutor: ‘It is a Horrible Case’
Speaking to reporters after their court hearing on Thursday, attorneys for David and Louise declined to comment beyond broad reactions about the allegations against them.
“It doesn’t get much more serious in terms of severity of the conduct being alleged and also the exposure in prison,” said Jeff Moore, Louise’s attorney.
He tells PEOPLE, “The allegations carry life in state prison. In terms of possible sentences this is about as serious as it gets.”
Echoing that, David’s attorney, David Macher, says, “It is a very serious case. Anytime you are talking about a century of imprisonment is a very serious case.”
Prosecutor Kevin Beecham says, “It is a horrible case. It is unfortunate for everyone involved. Thank goodness they [the kids] are out now.”
If you have any information about this family or these alleged crimes, please call Senior District Attorney Investigator Wade D. Walsvick at 951-955-5400.