The California siblings who were allegedly held captive by their parents were psychologically taunted by food and new toys – but not allowed to touch them, officials say.
David Turpin, 57, and Louise Turpin, 49, appeared in court on Thursday and were formally charged with 12 counts of torture. David was also charged with one count of a lewd act of a child.
They were also charged with 12 counts of false imprisonment, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult and six counts of child abuse.
The conditions in which the 13 children – ranging in ages from two to 29 – were kept were outlined by Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
He said the torture “started out as neglect” but then became more pervasive.
“They were not allowed to have toys, but there were many toys in the house, in original packaging, unopened,” Hestrin explained.
“The parents would buy food, including pies, leave it on the counter and not let them eat the food.”
He said they were also beaten and choked.
WATCH: Couple accused of keeping their 13 kids captive make court appearance
The police first found out about the case when the couple’s 17-year-old daughter escaped and led them back to the Turpins’ home in Perris, Calif.
Hestrin said she had been planning her escape for two years.
He also said the children – including the adult children – were extremely malnourished.
They were also allegedly denied medical and dental health care.
“None could shower more than once a year. None saw a doctor in the last four years, never have seen a dentist,” Hestrin said.
“As a punishment, they began to be tied up first with ropes,” Hestrin said. “When that victim was able to get out of the ropes, they began using chains and padlocks.”
WATCH: Neighbours describe 12 kids found locked in California home
If convicted, the couple would face 94 years to life in prison.
“We’re fully prepared to seek justice in this case and do so in a way that protects these victims from further harm.”
Grandparents surprised by arrests
The paternal grandparents of the children told the Southern California News Group what when they visited six years ago, the family looked healthy and happy.
Betty and James Turpin said they were surprised to learn about the couple’s arrest earlier this week.
James told the Associated Press he doesn’t believe the reports and will be talking to his son soon to “find out the real story.”
They told the Southern California News Group that their grandchildren all called each other “sweetie” when they visited their home in Murrieta, Calif., six years ago, and none of them appeared malnourished.
Betty says her son told her he had so many kids because God wanted him to. She says her son shared her Pentecostal Christian faith but he wasn’t affiliated with a church in California.
*with files from the Associated Press