LOS ANGELES (NBC News) — A California couple accused of keeping 13 children prisoner in their Perris home are facing the possibility of spending the rest of their lives in prison.
David and Louise Turpin faced a judge Thursday for the first time since their arrest.
Both Turpins have been charged with 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse on a dependent adult, 12 counts of false imprisonment and six counts of child abuse.
David Turpin was hit with an additional charge: committing a lewd act on a child by force.
Prosecutors say the parents routinely beat and strangled their children, bound them with ropes, fed them only once a day and let them shower just once a year.
Authorities say the abuse continued for years.
“Several of the victims have cognitive impairment and neuropathy, which is nerve damage as result of this extreme and prolonged physical abuse,” said Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin.
The victims, ranging in age from 2 to 29, have been hospitalized since authorities were alerted to their presence by one 17-year-old girl who managed to escape and call 911.
They’ve been receiving antibiotics, vitamins and nutrition through IVs — too weak to provide detailed statements to investigators.
David Turpin’s appointed attorney spoke briefly after Thursday’s hearing, telling reporters they are just getting started on a defense.
The Turpins both face dozens of charges and close to 100 years in prison.
Investigators now say they have recovered hundreds of journals written by the children during their captivity, something they say is key evidence in the case.
The abuse allegedly started when the family lived in the Fort Worth, Texas area and intensified when they moved to California in 2010.
Investigators ask anyone with information on the families to come forward to authorities.
More on this story from NBC News: http://nbcnews.to/2BePJH2