California parents accused of shackling kids head to court

LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors were expected to begin making their case Wednesday against a Southern California couple suspected of starving and shackling their children in a case that drew worldwide headlines when the parents were arrested last winter.

David and Louise Turpin are scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing in Superior Court in Riverside, where a judge will weigh whether authorities have amassed enough evidence for a trial.

The couple has pleaded not guilty to torture, child abuse and other charges. They were arrested after their 17-year-old daughter jumped out of a window to escape the family’s Perris, California, home in January and called 911.

They are being held on $12 million bail each.

Authorities said their home reeked of human waste and the evidence of starvation was obvious, with the oldest of 13 siblings weighing just 82 pounds. The children were shackled as punishment, denied food and toys and allowed to do little except write in journals, prosecutors have said.

They said the children were isolated from each other and locked in different rooms in small groups; they did not have access to televisions or radios but expressed themselves in the hundreds of journals that investigators seized from the home.

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Most of the Turpin children were homeschooled but one of the older boys was allowed to attend classes at a local college. His mother would drive him there, stay outside in the hallway during the class and then take him back home as soon as the class ended, prosecutors said.

After they were freed from the home, the children, who ranged in age from 2 to 29, were immediately hospitalized and eventually released.

The current whereabouts of the children is unknown. A spokeswoman for the county’s social services department declined to discuss the case.

Jack Osborn, an attorney appointed to represent the couple’s seven adult children, said earlier this year they were “doing well.” They have participated in music therapy programs, made crafts and world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma held a special concert for them. They communicated with their younger siblings over Skype.

“They’re happy, they are wanting to move forward, they do not want to dwell on the past and they want their identity to be now and going forward the things they hope to do, the dreams they have. They do not want people to think of them only as a possible victim, but as young adults setting off on their lives,” he told the Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper in February.

Osborn did not respond to an email from The Associated Press this week.

Prosecutors are expected to call law enforcement officers to testify at Wednesday’s hearing, but the children are not expected to take the stand.

David Turpin’s attorney, David Macher, said he was “looking forward to the hearing,” but declined to comment further. Louise Turpin’s lawyer did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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