“I’ve never been out. I don’t go out much.”
That’s what the 17-year-old daughter of David and Louise Turpin told police as she struggled to remember her address in a haunting 911 call played at the parents’ preliminary hearing in Riverside, California, this week.
The teen had just escaped from her home in Perris, California—a literal “house of horrors,” where she and her 12 siblings were tortured, starved, and left chained to their beds, prosecutors said.
“Sometimes I wake up and I can’t breathe because of how dirty the house is,” the girl said in an unusually high-pitched voice, according to NBC News. “We don't take baths. I don't know if we need to go to the doctor.”
“Help my sisters,” she pleaded.
On Thursday, a California judge determined that the Turpins, who were arrested in January and have been accused of abusing their captive children for years, must stand trial on 49 charges. They’ve pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The hearing revealed new disturbing details of the alleged abuse the Turpin children suffered in the so-called “torture house,” from the several years they were left abandoned in Texas to their time in California, where one of the girls said she spent 20 hours a day confined to her room, pacing back and forth for exercise.
“One can’t imagine why some of these things would have been done to their own flesh and blood,” Superior Court Judge Bernard J. Schwartz said Thursday, according to The Los Angeles Times.
On Wednesday, investigators recalled their conversations with some of the Turpin children, including a 25-year-old son who said he and his sister were essentially left in charge of their siblings over a three to four year period in Texas. While the children lived in a squalid trailer, their parents shacked up in an apartment not far away.
The 25-year-old said he meted out stomach-churning punishments at his parents’ behest—like locking his younger siblings in cages—our of fear for their lives.
“I chose to take the correct path and try to keep my siblings alive,” he told an investigator, according to the Times.
The children were cut off from the world outside their homes, often only leaving their rooms for trips to the bathroom and skimpy meals that left them starving. An 11-year-old girl had an arm with the circumference of that of a 4.5-month-old baby, testified Patrick Morris, supervising investigator for Riverside County District Attorney, according to CNN. The 17-year-old who called 911 weighed 97 pounds when cops found her.
That teen also told investigators that her father had sexually abused her, once pulling down her pants and putting her on his knee when she was 12 years old. She accused him of attempting to forcibly kiss her several times, as well, Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Campos testified.
One time, Louise Turpin choked the girl when she caught her watching a Justin Bieber music video, she told investigators. “Do you want to die?” the mom asked, according to the teen.
The 17-year-old ultimately decided to make her escape after her 11- and 14-year-old siblings had been chained to their beds for weeks, she told police. They were being punished for stealing candy—and one of them had accused their mom of being “worse than the devil,” the teen added.
On Thursday, Deputy district attorney Kevin Beecham held up a photo the 17-year-old had snapped of her younger sibling shackled to her bed.
“She’s 14, she looks like she’s 7,” he said.