Authorities in the western U.S. state of California say a husband and wife arrested Monday kept their 13 children captive in their home in filthy conditions.
David and Louise Turpin are being held on $9 million bail while police investigate charges of torture and child endangerment.
Police were alerted to the situation in the house in the city of Perris, near Los Angeles, by one of the children — a 17-year-old girl who escaped and called them on a cell phone.
The officers say she was so malnourished that she looked like a 10-year-old child instead of 17.
They found a house full of what they thought were 12 children, when some were actually adults between 18 and 29 years old.
“Deputies, when they arrived inside the house, they noticed that the children were malnourished, it was very dirty and the conditions were horrific," Lt. Greg Fellows of the Riverside County Sheriff Department told a press conference Tuesday.
Police say the youngest victim was two years old and some of the children were shackled to beds with chains and padlocks.
Officers describe the house as dark and foul-smelling. The victims were dirty and appeared to be starving.
“Our foremost concern at this time is the health and well-being of all of the children and we will be seeking court authorization to provide oversight and care for the children, including the adult children, to the extent that is necessary," Susan Von Zabern, Director of the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, said Tuesday.
Authorities say the couple ran a day school out of their home and were beset with financial problems in recent years, the Sheriff’s Department said.
A police statement said the parents did not give any logical reason why their children were being held in such appalling conditions.