Couple accused of imprisoning 13 children plead not guilty to new charges
A California couple accused of keeping 13 children imprisoned, chained and starved in a squalid suburban home have pleaded not guilty to new charges, as defence lawyers say they are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of evidence in the case.
- New charges include three counts of child abuse
- The couple are scheduled to return to court on March 23
- Defence lawyers are concerned they will not be ready for trial due to amount of evidence
David Turpin, 57, and his wife Louise, 49, were advised of the new charges during a brief hearing in Riverside County Superior Court, where they appeared dressed in black at a table with their attorneys but did not speak.
A spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney's Office said the new charges included three counts of child abuse against both defendants.
Louise Turpin was also charged with felony assault.
"Further investigations we have been doing in this case led us to amend the complaint, which is not uncommon," spokesman John Hall said outside court.
The Turpins were arrested on January 14 at their home in Perris, California, about 113 kilometres east of Los Angeles, after an emaciated teenage girl climbed out of a window of the house and called police.
Officers responding to the scene found her 12 siblings ranging in age from two to 29 inside, suffering from malnourishment, muscle wasting and other signs of severe abuse.
Authorities said the abuse was so sustained that the children's growth was stunted.
They alleged the couple shackled the children to furniture as punishment and had them live a nocturnal lifestyle.
Defence attorneys, who have asked the public to remember that their clients have a presumption of innocence, told the judge that they were sceptical they could be ready to proceed with a preliminary hearing of the case because of the voluminous amount of evidence turned over by prosecutors.
Both defendants previously entered not–guilty pleas to torture and a raft of other charges and are being held on a $12 million bail and are prohibited from contacting their children.
The children will not be required to testify during the preliminary hearing, at which a judge determines if there is enough evidence to bind the defendants over for trial, under a California law that allows police officers to summarise their testimony, sparing them further trauma.
The Turpins were ordered back to court on March 23 for another hearing in the case.