A judge ruled Thursday that David and Louise Turpin must stand trial for allegedly starving, shackling and torturing 12 of their 13 kids — a move one relative called a necessary step toward “justice.”
Louise’s sister, Elizabeth Flores, broke down crying in a phone interview with the Daily News as she discussed disturbing new details in the case that emerged from the couple’s two-day preliminary hearing in California.
Flores said she was shocked by testimony her sister once threw a 7-year-old child down the stairs and that an 11-year-old daughter had the upper-arm circumference of a four-and-a-half-month-old infant.
“I want justice for my nieces and nephews. I want this trial to happen fast. I want the kids to have the chance to move on and have the life they deserve,” Flores said from her home in Tennessee.
“I’m so hurt. How could you treat your children like this? How sick do you have to be? These kids were living in pure hell. It was like a horror movie,” she told The News.
Flores spoke after Riverside County Judge Bernard J. Schwartz said the evidence presented by prosecutors this week – which included a harrowing 911 call and photos of two daughters in chains – was enough to convince him the Turpins should face a jury.
The alleged parents from hell were arrested in January and have pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of torture, false imprisonment and abuse.
David Turpin, 56, also was charged with one count of a lewd act on a child under the age of 14 by force, fear or duress.
Louise Turpin, 50, is facing an additional charge she assaulted one of the couple’s daughters in 2015 using a means “likely to produce great bodily injury.”
The judge dropped only one charge among dozens in the case. He found there wasn’t enough evidence to show the Turpins abused their youngest daughter, a baby who appeared to be well fed.
On Wednesday, multiple investigators testified about their interviews with the couple’s children and their doctors.
They said the kids reported being starved, chained to beds, locked in cages, choked, tossed down stairs, beaten with switches and neglected to the point they had no formal schooling and only bathed once a year.
The 11-year-old daughter was so abused when authorities rescued her on Jan. 14, she suffered from severe cachexia, a muscle wasting syndrome, and had been diagnosed with “psychosocial dwarfism,” a growth disorder caused by extreme emotional deprivation, an investigator with the Riverside County District Attorney testified.
Louise showed little emotion during the hearing but appeared to cry when prosecutors played audio of the 911 call her 17-year-old daughter placed after jumping out a window of the family’s house in Perris, California.
The teen’s voice sounded like that of a girl half her age.
“OK, I live in a family of 15 people and my parents are abusive. They abuse us, and my two little sisters right now are chained up,” the girl told the dispatcher.
“Sometimes I wake up and I can’t breathe because of how dirty the house is. We never take baths,” she said. “I don’t know if we need to go to the doctors.”
The 17-year-old said the chains used to punish her sisters left them despondent.
“They will wake up at night, and they will cry, and they wanted me to call someone,” she said in the recording played in court. “I wanted to call someone so y’all could help my sisters.”
Prosecutors later showed photos of the girls in chains, including the 11 year old.
The daughter revealed on the call that she didn’t know what “medication” meant. She had trouble reading her address from a scrap of an envelope she swiped from the house.
“I don’t go out much, so I don’t know anything about the streets or anything,” she apologized to the dispatcher.
Asked when she last took a bath, the teen wasn’t sure.
“Uh, I don’t know, almost a year ago,” she said. “Sometimes I feel so dirty, I wash my face and I wash my hair …I wash it in the sink.”
She said the 13 kids in her house didn’t attend regular school.
“Our mother tells people we’re private schooled but, we don’t really do school. I haven’t finished first grade, and I’m 17,” she said.
She claimed her parents abandoned the kids for “like four years” when they lived in Texas before moving to California.
“I don’t know much about my mother. She doesn’t like us. She doesn’t spend time with us ever. I take care of myself,” she said. “Mother does buy food for us, so she feeds us, but we never talk.”
The teen later told investigators her father once pulled her pants down twice and positioned her on his thigh before the incident was interrupted by her mother.
She said her father told her not to tell anyone about the encounter, which happened when she was 12 years old, and that it led her to consider drowning herself in the bathroom sink.
David Turpin’s defense lawyers, David J. Macher and Allison Lowe, fought to exclude some evidence during the preliminary hearing, saying it was too old and related to alleged abuse that took place when the family lived in Texas.
They made a point of highlighting testimony that claimed Louise was the chief abuser once the family moved to California.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, claim David played an active role in the physical abuse of the kids back in Texas and was the mastermind of the plot to restrain the kids with ropes and chains. They also said David submitted the paperwork for the sham homeschool that enabled the abuse.
When police first met the 13 Turpin kids, they initially thought all were minors due to their size. They later learned seven were adults, ranging in age from 18 to 29.
The 29-year-old victim weighed just 82 pounds when found, prosecutors previously said.
David and Louise Turpin are due back in court for re-arraignment on Aug. 3.