PERRIS, Calif. – Two parents are being held on $9 million bail each after a horrific discovery at a residence in Perris over the weekend -- 13 malnourished siblings held captive amid dirty conditions, including some children shackled to beds, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said Monday.
An investigation began after a 17-year-old girl "escaped" from her home in the 100 block of Muir Woods Road and called 911 early Sunday morning to report that her 12 brothers and sisters were being held captive by their parents, according to a sheriff's news release. The call came from a cellphone that she had managed to find in the house before fleeing.
In the disturbing phone call, she alleged some of her siblings were bound in padlocked chains.
Responding officers initially believed the “slightly emaciated” girl was only 10 years old until she provided her age.
After interviewing the teen, investigators went to the residence and contacted her parents, identified as 56-year-old David Allen Turpin and 49-year-old Louise Anna Turpin, according to the release.
Investigators discovered "several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings," the release said. The parents could not provide a "logical" explanation for why the kids were restrained, investigators said.
Authorities located what they thought were 12 children, but were "shocked" to find out that seven of them were adults. In all, the victims are between the ages of 2 and 29, the release stated.
They looked to be malnourished and filthy, authorities said. The department did not say how long the children had been held under such conditions.
The victims were taken to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department's Perris Station for interviews; they were provided food and drink after telling investigators they were "starving," according to the release.
The six children and seven adults were then transported to different hospitals for treatment. Their conditions were not immediately known.
One neighbor told KTLA that residents in the area didn't know what was going on in the home.
“It’s heartbreaking," she said. "Now to know that there was that much kids in there and not even know about it then, it’s like, I wish there was something this community could have done."
The 10 female children are dressed identically in pink plaid dresses, white tights and white Mary Janes, while one of the girls holds a baby. Three male children wear suits and magenta ties.A Facebook page for a "David-Louise Turpin" shows photos of the couple that match the pair seen in the booking photos. Images posted to the account in 2016 show the couple at what looks like a wedding ceremony, accompanied by 13 apparent children.
The girls all have long brown hair, and the boys have bowl haircuts, like the father.
Both parents were detained and interviewed while child and adult protectives services responded to assist in the investigation, the release stated. They were arrested on Muir Woods Road Sunday around 9 p.m. and booked early Monday morning at the Robert Presley Detention Center, according to inmate records.
The Turpins were booked on nine felony counts each of torture and 10 felony counts each of child endangerment.
The release stated that David Turpin was 57, but inmate records that show his date of birth indicate he is 56.
David’s mother, Betty Turpin, told CNN the children usually dressed alike during family outings for safety purposes.
"They were very protective of the kids," she said. The parents would also line their children up according to age, and then lead the group at the front and back of the line, she said.
"This is a highly respectable family," Betty added.
California records indicate a David Turpin is the principal of Sandcastle Day School, a private school that is located in the 100 block of Muir Woods Road in Perris. The address of the school matches that listed for the Turpins in public records.
The school -- which opened in March 2011 -- has a total of six students, one each in fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth, 10th and 12th grades, according to the latest information from the state Department of Education.
The couple filed for bankruptcy the same year Sandcastle Day School opened, after accruing about $240,000 in debt, mostly from credit cards and a foreclosed farm south of Fort Worth, Texas, federal court documents show.
David Turpin had been an engineer for defense contractor Northrop Grumman, where he earned about $140,000 a year, the court record indicated. His wife was a homemaker.
When they declared bankruptcy, the Turpins had 12 children and "spoke about them highly," their attorney, Ivan Trahan, told the New York Times in an interview. He described them as "a very nice couple," noting that the family loved to visit Disneyland and visited the Anaheim theme park often.
"This is shocking," Trahan said of the accusations against the husband and wife.
The residence where the discovery was made is on a cul-de-sac in residential area of Perris, about 60 miles east-southeast of downtown Los Angeles and 19 miles south-southeast from downtown Riverside.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is contracted to operate the Perris Police Department. Deputies assigned to both agencies responded.
Anyone with information about the investigation is urged to call Master Investigator Tom Salisbury at the Perris Station by calling 951-210-1000, or via email at PerrisStation@RiversideSheriff.org.
KTLA's Melissa Pamer contributed to this story.