“My two little sisters right now are chained up,” a 17-year-old girl told a police dispatcher in a harrowing 9-1-1 audio recording played Wednesday during a preliminary hearing to determine if her mother and father, David and Louise Turpin, should stand trial for a slew of abuse charges.
“They will wake up at night and they will start crying and they wanted me to call somebody,” the 17-year-old told the 9-1-1 dispatcher, referring to her siblings, according to the Associated Press. “I wanted to call y’all so y’all can help my sisters.”
The Turpins were arrested in January when police responded to their home in Perris, California and discovered 13 abused and neglected children, three of whom were shackled to beds, according to prosecutors. Seven were adults, ranging in age from 17 to 29.
The couple pleaded not guilty to torture, child neglect, abuse and other charges. They are being held in jail, in lieu of $12 million bail each.
After the couple’s arrest, the prosecutor, Riverside County District Attorney Michael A. Hestrin held a press conference to detail the charges. The Turpin parents, he said, punished the children with physical restraints, beginning with rope then progressing to chains and padlocks.
“These punishments would last for weeks or even months at a time,” Hestrin said, adding that three of their children were restrained when police first knocked on their door.
“All the victims were and are severely malnourished, specifically severe caloric malnutrition associated with muscle wasting,” Hestrin said, pointing to one of the children, a 12-year-old, who was “the weight of an average seven-year-old” when rescued by police.
“The 29-year-old female victim,” Hestrin said, “weighs 82 pounds.”
“Several of the victims have cognitive impairment, and neuropathy, which is nerve damage as a result of this extreme and prolonged physical abuse.”
None of the Turpin children are expected to testify at the parents’ preliminary hearing, according to the Associated Press, but six police officers who investigated the Turpins are, and their testimony is expect to last through Thursday, according to CBS2 Los Angeles.
Sheriff's Det. Thomas Salisbury was the first witness to testify at the hearing on Wednesday, according to NBC Los Angeles. He said police received two 9-1-1 calls from the 17-year-old, who escaped from the house and used the emergency feature on a disconnected cellular telephone to summon help.
Then prosecutors played one of the recordings in court.
“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 said, according to the New York Daily News.
“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 9-1-1 dispatcher asked the girl when the last time she took a bath was.
“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.”
“Our mother tells people we’re private schooled,” the girl added, but “we don’t really do school. I haven’t finished first grade, and I’m 17.”
She said her parents abandoned her and her siblings for “like four years” when they lived in Texas, before moving to California.
“I don’t know much about my mother,” the girl continued. “She doesn’t take care of us … they only chain us up if we do something wrong. My sisters, they wake up crying.”
As the recording played, the girl’s mother, Louise, cried, the Associated Press reported.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge hearing the case will decide whether there is enough evidence for the criminal prosecution against the Turpin parents to proceed to trial.
[Photo: Riverside County Sheriff's Department]