A dozen siblings were found trapped “in dark and foul-smelling surroundings” inside a home in Perris, Calif. on Sunday morning, police say.
Riverside County Sheriff’s officials said they discovered the victims, who are between two to 29 years old, after their sister escaped with a cellphone and contacted authorities.
After speaking with the 17-year-old girl, who was initially believed to be 10 years old, police said they then spoke with the parents of the home she escaped from before further going inside the house.
Once inside, police said they found “several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings, but the parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in that manner.”
Police went on to say the victims appear to be malnourished and dirty.
The children were taken to a police station, where they were questioned and provided with food and beverages before being transported for medical attention.
Six of the couple’s children are minors, while the other seven are over 18, police said.
A neighbour who answered the phone on Monday but declined to be identified told Reuters the neighbourhood was recently built and said he did not know the Turpins and had not noticed anything unusual. The neighborhood is made up of low-slung, stucco single-family homes, according to images online.
Perris is located about 113 km east of Los Angeles.
David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, have been charged with torture and child endangerment. Bail for each Turpin has been set at $9 million apiece.
A Facebook page that appeared to have been created by the parents showed the couple dressed in wedding clothes, surrounded by 10 girls in matching purple plaid dresses and three male children in suits.
California state records list David Turpin as the principal of the Sandcastle Day School, with its address at the Turpin house.
Records show the Turpins filed for bankruptcy in 2011. Nancy Trahan, who works in the Temecula, California, law office that handled the bankruptcy, said the couple were friendly and spoke highly of their children.
“They seemed like very nice people,” she said by telephone.
With files from Reuters