MURRIETA, Calif. — A polygamist was convicted Wednesday of charges that he starved, tortured and abused two of his wives and many of his 19 children and stepchildren.

A Riverside County jury found Mansa Musa Muhummed guilty on 25 counts, including torturing seven of the children, abusing 12 of them and falsely imprisoning the wives.

Muhummed, 55, shook his head as the verdict was read, prosecutor Julie Baldwin said.

Muhummed could spend the rest of his life in prison. His wives and children were not present in court for the verdict, but they plan to attend sentencing, which is scheduled for Aug. 1, Baldwin said.

Muhummed, whose birth name was Richard Boddie, told authorities that his Muslim faith gave him the right to take multiple wives. He was arrested in 1999 after one of his wives, Laura Cowan, slipped a 13-page letter to a postal service worker describing the abuse.

His trial started last month after nine years of legal wrangling in which he changed lawyers four times and represented himself for more than two years.

Several of his children and stepchildren, now adults, took the stand, telling the jury that they had been beaten, starved, strung up by their feet and forced to eat vomit and feces.

Muhummed testified in his own defense. In tearful testimony, he denied the charges and blamed one of his wives for the alleged abuse.

He said his children and stepchildren ate three regular meals a day except during the holy month of Ramadan, when the older children ate two meals — one before dawn and one after sunset.

Doctors said the children were extremely malnourished. A 19-year-old daughter was 4-foot-1 and weighed 56 pounds.