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Prosecutor Releases New Details In Case Involving 'Shackled' Siblings

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We are learning new details about the case of 13 children allegedly held captive by their parents in Southern California. And a warning - this report you're about to hear includes descriptions of child abuse. From member station KVCR, Benjamin Purper reports.

BENJAMIN PURPER, BYLINE: Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin held a press conference where he detailed the condition that the siblings had been living in for years. He alleged that David and Louise Turpin would punish their children by keeping them chained to their beds for weeks or months at a time.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE HESTRIN: One victim at one point was tied up and hogtied. And then when that victim was able to escape the ropes, these defendants eventually began using chains and padlocks.

PURPER: Hestrin said that the children weren't allowed to use the restroom while they were chained up. They were fed so rarely that several children have cognitive impairment and nerve damage. The malnutrition was so severe that the district attorney said the 12-year-old child is the weight of an average 7-year-old and that the 29-year-old daughter weighs only 82 pounds. Hestrin said that the Turpin parents would only let the children shower once a year, and if they washed their hands above the wrist, they would be punished for, quote, "playing in the water."

The press conference also provided an updated account of how the children escaped the house. The D.A. said that some of the children had been formulating an escape plan for two years. The 17-year-old girl who called 911 escaped out of a window with one of her siblings. But the sibling quickly turned back out of fear and re-entered the house. Hestrin says when officers arrived and knocked on the door, three children were chained to their beds inside the house.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HESTRIN: The defendants were able to get two of the victims unchained before the police actually entered. An 11 and 14-year-old were unchained as the police stood at the door while a 22-year-old remained chained to a bed when the police entered the home.

PURPER: The siblings are recovering in local hospitals, and the parents have pled not guilty to all charges. Their next court appearance is scheduled for February. For NPR News, I'm Benjamin Purper in Riverside, Calif.

(SOUNDBITE OF EXIST STRATEGY'S "MIDNIGHT WALKS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.