California authorities say they have rescued more than a dozen starving, filthy young people who were chained inside their parents’ home in Perris.
One of the captives, a 17-year-old girl, escaped over the weekend and notified the Riverside Sheriff’s Department that her siblings “were being held captive inside the residence by her parents,” some of them “bound with chains and padlocks,” the Sheriff’s Department said.
Initially, officials believed the “slightly emaciated” teenager was only 10 years old. They confronted a horrific scene at her home, according to a press release.
“Further investigation revealed 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,” the department said.
“The victims appeared to be malnourished and very dirty,” the department said.
Not all of them were children: of the 13 victims, seven were between the age of 18 and 29, much to the shock of the Sheriff's Department.
After interviewing both parents — identified as 57-year old David Allen Turpin and 49-year old Louise Anna Turpin — authorities arrested them on torture and child endangerment charges, setting bail at $9m (£6.5m) apiece.
"The kids didn't come out very often," neighbours told NBC Los Angeles. None knew exactly how many children were in the house.
Another, who saw the couple being arrested, said the children "were very, very pale-skinned, almost like they've never seen the sun."
California records indicate that a David Turpin received state approval to open a private school, the Sandcastle Day School, which reportedly operated from the family home according to CNN. A representative for the California Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Th Turpins had moved into the Perris home in 2010, but by 2011 had declared bankruptcy.
The attorney who represented the couple, Ivan Trahan, told CNN "there was nothing out of ordinary" about to couple who did not seem distressed about the bankruptcy and appeared to dote on their 13 children, even showing Mr Trahan pictures of family trip to Disneyland.
In fact, the family had taken several family trips - notably three in 2011, 2013, and 2015 to Las Vegas in order for the couple to renew their vows.
In all the family pictures, the girls and boys wear matching clothes, respectively, and appear to be healthy and smiling.
Mr Turpin is listed in the public bankruptcy records as an engineer for Northrop Grumman, making approximately $140,000 a year. Ms Turpin is listed as a "homemaker."
However, the couple came to Mr Trahan with over $240,000 in debt from credit cards and a foreclosed farm in Texas.
All 13 victims are currently being treated in area hospitals. The names of the other adults in the home have not yet been released.
It is unclear whether the Turpins have obtained legal counsel at this time or if they entered a plea.