A Perris, California, mother and father are behind bars Tuesday after one of their children escaped their home and reported to sheriff's deputies that 12 of her siblings were still being held captive at their home, some of them shackled with chains and padlocks to their beds.
The children appeared malnourished when they were found Sunday, some so severely that deputies initially believed the adult children to be kids, according to a statement from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
"I wish I could come to you today with information to explain why this happened, but we do need to acknowledge the courage of the young girl who escaped from that residence to bring attention so they could get the help they so needed," said Captain Greg Fellows at a Tuesday morning news conference following the discovery that sent Southern California reeling.
David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, have been booked on charges of torture and child endangerment. They are each being held in lieu of $9 million bail.
According to the sheriff's department, a 17-year-old girl fled the house in the 100 block of Muir Woods Road early Sunday morning and was able to call 911 using a cellphone she had taken from the home.
Despite her age, deputies at first believed her to be around 10 years old because she was emaciated and malnourished.
At the home, deputies found children shackled to beds in "dark and foul-smelling surroundings."
"Deputies located what they believed to be 12 children inside the house, but were shocked to discover that 7 of them were actually adults, ranging in age from 18 to 29," police said in the statement. "The victims appeared to be malnourished and very dirty."
NBC Los Angeles has reached out to the Turpins' attorney for comment.
Neighbors say that the family kept to themselves, and when the children did come out, they did not look healthy.
"They looked very unnutrioned [sic], very white, like they never got sun at all," Wendy Martinez said. "I mean, they would never come out and when they did, the lady would stand there watching them."
Real estate records also reveal that Sandcastle Day School - a private school owned by David Turpin - is located at the couple's home.
The wedding officiant who served the couple as they renewed their vows said nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the family, other than its large size.
"Nothing seemed to be unusual, except the fact that there was a lot of them - a lot of kids," Kent Ripley said.
Ripley said the children appeared happy and well-behaved.
The couple's victims range in age from 2 to 29 years old. All of them have been hospitalized.
All six children were taken to the Riverside University Hospital System for treatment while the seven adults were transported to Corona Regional Medical Center, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
"We have seven of the adults," said Corona Regional Medical Center CEO Mark Uffer at a Tuesday news conference. "It's hard to think of them as adults when you first see them because they're small, and it's very clear that they're [malnourished]."
Uffer said the hospital couldn't reveal much do to pirvacy laws, but said the children were stable, being fed, and were in a comfortable and safe environment.
"I can tell you they're very friendly, they're very cooperative, and I believe that they're hopeful that life will get better for them," Uffer said.