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'House Of Horrors' Couple Who Shackled 13 Children To Beds And Starved Them Plead Guilty

A US couple who shackled some of their 13 children to beds and starved them have pleaded guilty to torture and other abuses in a case dubbed a "house of horrors".

Californian couple David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty in the Riverside County Superior Court on Friday to 14 counts that include abusing minor and adult children and imprisoning them in their house, which appeared to be neatly kept from the outside in a modest subdivision.

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said the couple will be sentenced on April 19 to 25 years-to-life in prison.

He said the guilty pleas were important to protect the children from having to testify.

The couple was arrested in January 2018 when their 17-year-old daughter called 911 after escaping from the family's home in the city of Perris, southeast of Los Angeles.

The children, who ranged in age from 2 to 29 at the time, were severely underweight and hadn't bathed for months, and the house reeked of human waste.

Investigators said some of the children had stunted growth and wasted muscles and described being beaten, starved and put in cages.

David Turpin during a preliminary hearing in Riverside Superior Court in June 2018. Photo: AAP.

In a recording of the 911 call played in court last year, the girl who escaped said two younger sisters and a brother were chained to their beds and she couldn't take it any longer.

"They will wake up at night and they will start crying and they wanted me to call somebody," she said in a high-pitched voice.

"I wanted to call y'all so y'all can help my sisters."

The intervention by authorities marked a new start for the 13 Turpin offspring who lived in such isolation that some didn't even understand the role of the police when they arrived at the house.

Two girls, 11 and 14, had been hastily released from their chains when police showed up, but a 22-year-old son remained shackled.

The young man said he and his siblings had been suspected of stealing food and being disrespectful, a detective testified.

The man said he had been tied up with ropes at first and then, after learning to wriggle free, restrained with increasingly larger chains on and off over six years.

David and Louise Turpin's mugshots. provided by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. Photo: AAP.

Authorities said the children were deprived of food and things other children take for granted, such as toys and games, and were allowed to do little except write in journals.

An investigator testified that some suffered from severe malnutrition and muscle wasting, including an 11-year-old girl who had arms the size of an infant.

A 17-year-old had difficulty pronouncing some words and spoke like a much younger child.

The children were rarely allowed outside, though they went out on Halloween and travelled as a family to Disneyland and Las Vegas, investigators said.

The children spent most of their time locked in their rooms except for limited meals or using the bathroom.

All the children were hospitalised immediately after they were discovered.