PERRIS (California) • A California couple have been charged with torture after police rescued their 13 malnourished children from their home where some of them had been chained to beds.
Police made the discovery after a 17-year-old girl escaped the one-storey house in Perris, about 113km east of Los Angeles, and used a cellphone she had found in the house to call 911, the Riverside County Sheriff's Office said on Monday.
"Deputies located what they believed to be 12 children inside the house, but were shocked to discover that seven of them were actually adults," police said. "The victims appeared to be malnourished and very dirty."
The children ranged in age from two to 29, police said.
The parents, David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, were arrested and each charged with nine counts of torture and 10 counts of child endangerment.
Held in jail with bail set at US$9 million (S$12 million) each, the couple are due in court tomorrow.
Neighbours described the family as shut-ins who shunned social contact. Neighbour Kimberly Milligan told the Los Angeles Times that the children were very pale and never played outside. "I thought the kids were homeschooled... You know something is off, but you don't want to think bad of people."
The couple filed for bankruptcy in California in 2011, stating that they owed between US$100,000 and US$500,000 in debt.
At that time, David Turpin worked as an engineer at Northrop Grumman, a defence contractor, and earned US$140,000 annually, records show. The wife's occupation was listed as a homemaker. Their bankruptcy lawyer said Louise Turpin told him the family visited Disneyland often.