The teenage girl who helped rescue her 12 severely malnourished siblings from her family's home in Southern California had plotted her escape for two years.
David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, have now been charged with committing years of torture and abuse that left their children malnourished, undersized and with cognitive impairments.
Their alleged crimes were uncovered when their 17-year-old daughter broke free through a window of their home before using a deactivated mobile phone to call police.
Another sibling escaped with her, but decided to turn back out because she was so fearful.
Prosecutors filed 12 counts of torture, seven counts of dependent adult abuse, six counts of child abuse and 12 counts of false imprisonment against
David Turpin was additionally charged with one count of a lewd act on a child under age 14.
Describing what the siblings endured as “severe, emotional, physical abuse”, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin also revealed the children were not allowed to shower more than once a year.
“This is depraved conduct,” Hestrin added.
Hestin also revealed that the parents would buy food for themselves but not allow the children to eat it.
"They would buy pies, applies pies, pumpkin pies, put it on table let the children look at it, but not eat the food."
The victims range in age from two to 29. The charges involve acts in Riverside County dating to 2010.
The torture and false imprisonment charges do not include the two-year-old, Hestrin said.
On Wednesday, authorities searched the couple’s current home in Perris, 110 kilometres southeast of Los Angeles. Investigators removed dozens of boxes, what appeared to be two safes and pieces of a bed frame.
Some siblings were shackled to furniture in the foul-smelling four-bedroom home that looked perfectly normal from the outside.
In an interview, grandparents of the children said their son’s family looked happy and healthy when they last visited California six years ago.
Betty Turpin, the 81-year-old mother of David Turpin, said they were just like any ordinary family
“And they had such good relationships. I’m not just saying this stuff. These kids, we were amazed. They were ‘sweetie’ this and ‘sweetie’ that to each other.”
She said she was still in shock after learning that her son and his wife had been arrested.
Betty Turpin said her son told her he had so many kids because God wanted him to.
“I feel they were model Christians,” she said. “It’s hard to believe all of this. Over the years, the Lord knows what happened.”
The Turpin’s have lived in two Riverside County communities since moving to California, and police said they were never called to either home, nor were any reports fielded by child protective services.
It’s not clear what motivated the Turpin’s to live a secluded life with their large brood or what went on in the house.
Psychiatrists say that even in cases of extreme deprivation, it’s common for feelings