Two California parents have been arrested after holding their 13 children captive, starving them and keeping them shackled to their beds.
Police found the brothers and sisters malnourished and shackled to beds in a foul-smelling home that did not provide adequate food or water, The New York Times reported.
Authorities learned of the abuse after a one of the siblings -- a 17-year-old girl -- called them from a cell phone inside the home and told them she and her siblings were being held against their will, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said.
When police arrived at the home on Jan. 14, they found the siblings -- who ranged between ages 2 and 29 -- living in the dark. Some were found chained and padlocked to their beds. They reportedly pleaded with officers for water and food after being freed.
The victims' parents, David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, were then arrested and charged with torture and child endangerment. Their bail was set at $9 million each.
"The parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in that manner," authorities said in a statement.
"The victims appeared to be malnourished and very dirty. Perris Station Detectives were dispatched to the residence for further investigation," police added. "Child Protective Services (CPS) and Adult Protective Services (APS) arrived to assist in the investigation. The victims were provided with food and beverages after they claimed to be starving."
Law enforcement officials said they could not immediately recognize that some of the victims were adults because they were so emaciated. They said the 17-year-old girl who called them looked as if she were just 10.
The siblings were taken to a local hospital.
David worked as an engineer for defense firm Northrop Grumman, and earned more than $140,000 in 2011, bankruptcy documents show, the Los Angeles Times reported. The couple's attorney, Ivan Trahan, said he was shocked by the news of their arrest.
"To me and my wife, Nancy, who was with me during the interviews, we always thought of them as very nice people who spoke highly of their children," Trahan told the Los Angeles Times. "They seemed like very normal people who fell into financial problems."
Trahan added that despite David's "relatively high" income, he still had trouble budgeting because he had so many children.
Several neighbors were also shocked by the news.
"I had no idea this was going on," Andrew Santillan told The Press-Enterprise. "I didn’t know there were kids in the house."
Another neighbor, Andria Valdez, said the family was hardly seen during the daytime. She said their family would jokingly compare them to the fictional Cullen family from the "Twilight" novel and film series.
"They only came out at night," Valdez said. "They were really, really pale."
Robert Perkins recalled one moment several years prior, when he and his mother saw members of the family building a Nativity scene in their front yard. When he complimented them on the project, Perkins said they "didn't say a word."
Sources: The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Press-Enterprise / Featured Image: Adam Dubrowa via Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Riverside County Sheriff’s Department via Daily Mail