As the case against the California couple accused of abusing their 13 children for years unfolds, authorities have revealed insights into how the siblings lived, saying the alleged abuse worsened over time.
David and Louise Turpin face numerous criminal charges including torture, false imprisonment and abuse. Both have pleaded not guilty to all charges and remain in custody. If convicted, each faces up to 94 years to life in prison.
The 13 children were discovered after a 17-year-old sibling escaped through a window on Jan. 14 and used a disconnected cell phone to call 911, telling authorities she and her 12 siblings were being abused by their parents.
When authorities responded to the family’s Perris home that day, nothing could have prepared them for what they discovered: a dozen children malnourished, living in squalor, with some shackled to pieces of furniture, police have alleged.
At a press conference in January, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin described the alleged abuse as “severe, pervasive, prolonged.”
Alleged Abuse Began Years Ago But Escalated Over Time
The family lived in the Fort Worth. Texas, area before moving to to Murrieta, California, in 2010 and finally to Perris in 2014. Authorities believe the alleged abuse got worse over the years.
“What started out as neglect became severe, pervasive, prolonged child abuse,” Hestrin alleged at the January press conference.
“This is severe emotional, physical abuse. There’s no way around that,” he added. “This is depraved conduct.”
When living in Texas, the Turpins kept to themselves, neighbors have said.
But there were troubling signs. One neighbor, Rick Vinyard, previously told PEOPLE the family moved out of their brick home and into a double-wide trailer parked on the same lot because the squalor in their home had made it “unlivable.”
Vinyard further alleged their pets starved to death.
“They moved out of the brick house because the family had trashed it so bad, it was unlivable,” Vinyard said. “They had left pets in there that starved to death. We found a dead dog and a dead cat in that house. The kitchen just looked horrible. There were dirty diapers piled waist-high.”
Family Allegedly Hid Abuse — and Distanced Themselves From Relatives
While authorities have not commented on a possible motive, Hestrin said at the January press conference it appears “no one [outside the family] noticed what was happening.”
According to authorities, David, 56, and Louise Turprin, 49, hid the alleged abuse from the outside world by having the family sleep all day and stay up all night— going to bed about 4 or 5 a.m.
Neighbors previously told PEOPLE they could see the children, who were homeschooled, marching on the second floor.
Hundreds of journals were recovered from the home, which authorities have said they hope will provide insight into the alleged abuse.
Relatives of David and Louise have said the couple slowly began to distance themselves from their relatives after having several children.
Louise’s estranged sister, Teresa Robinette, said in an interview with Megyn Kelly that Louise and David started acting strangely after having several children.
“Our hope is that they all can lead some sort of normal or happy existence,” Robinette said about the children on Megyn Kelly TODAY. “They’ve obviously never known happy. My main hope is that I can put my arm around them and just tell them they had family that loves them that’s not deranged. I want them to meet their cousins.”
Despite Isolation, One Sibling Attended College
As isolated as the family was, David and Louise Turpin allowed their children to make public appearances for special occasions. One of the siblings even attended college.
When the couple’s eldest son, 29, enrolled at Mt. San Jacinto College, authorities have said he remained under the close watch of his mother.
“Louise Turpin would accompany him,” Hestrin previously told PEOPLE. “She would wait outside the class for him and then take him out.”
According to a spokesperson for Mt. San Jacinto College, the 29-year-old was named to the president’s honor roll in fall 2015 and spring 2016.
The couple took their children out on public outings to Disneyland and Las Vegas, where the couple had their wedding vows renewed every few years by an Elvis impersonator.
Leading up to the children’s rescue in January, the couple’s 17-year-old daughter uploaded videos on a secret YouTube channel that shows the girl singing songs she says wrote. The last video was posted seven days before her escape, according to ABC News.
Louise Admired Kate Gosellin and Wanted a Big Family: Brother
Louise’s half-brother Billy Lambert previously told PEOPLE Louise looked up to Kate Gosellin of the Kate Plus 8 show and wanted to have many children.
“[She] always wanted a big family,” Lambert said. “She had mentioned the Kate Plus 8 show, that it was a cool reality show.”
Lambert said Louise wanted to have another kid, saying, “The last conversation we had on the phone she had mentioned David is looking into a school bus because their 15-seat van is filled up,” Lambert said.
In February, prosecutors filed three new child abuse charges against the couple and one felony assault charge against Louise, according to an amended criminal complaint obtained by PEOPLE. They are each being held in lieu of a $12 million bond and are scheduled to return to court for a hearing on May 4.
The six juvenile siblings and seven adult ones were taken to separate hospitals for treatment after their parents’ arrest.
Corona, California, mayor Karen Spiegel, who works closely with the nurses caring for the siblings, told PEOPLE that local supporters don’t refer to them as the Turpins because they don’t want to associate them with their parents. Instead, they are called “The Magnificent 13.”
The seven adult siblings, who received treatment at the Corona Regional Medical Center, have since been discharged and are now living in a home in rural California.
• With reporting by CHRISTINE PELISEK