PERRIS, Calif. - Two parents in a suburban Southern California neighborhood are being held on $9 million bail and face charges of torture and child endangerment of their 13 children held captive in their home for years, which has an eerily similar narrative to that of Jaycee Dugard, who was held prisoner in the East Bay for nearly two decades.
The Riverside County Sheriff's Office said in a news release on Monday that David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, are being held at the Robert Presley Detention Center. Efforts to reach them or their lawyers were not immediately successful on Tuesday morning.
Riverside County sheriff's Capt. Greg Fellows on Tuesday said the mother was "perplexed" when authorities arrived on their doorstep and later found their children living in deplorable conditions. Fellows said he didn't know how long they had been living like that but it was for a "prolonged period of time." He said they were victims of "torture" and their living situation "horrific."
There was no evidence of the parents being involved in a religious organization despite an unusual series of wedding renewal ceremonies at the Elvis Chapel and Las Vegas. And his deputies had no prior contact with the Turpins, Fellows said. Fellows said the family lived in this home since 2014, but they had also lived in Murrietta, Calif. and possibly Texas.
All 13 siblings were taken to hospitals for treatment and evaluation. And the county's Department of Public Social Service Director Susan von Zabern said at a Tuesday news conference that she will seek court authorization to care for the siblings, including the adults. She said she is hoping that relatives come forward to be their guardians.
Mark Uffer, chief executive of the Corona Regional Medical Center, said seven of the adult children — five females and two adults ages 18 to 29 — are patients at his hospital.
Uffer said the siblings are staying in a secured area where they are together.
"They're very friendly. They're very cooperative, and I believe very hopeful that life will get better for them after this event," he said.
The parents were arrested Sunday morning after one of their 17-year-old daughters — who was so emaciated she looked to be about 10 years old — escaped from her home on Muir Woods Road in a city called Perris, Calif. and called 911 from a cell phone that was inside her house.
The home they live in is set in an upper middle class neighborhood about 20 miles south of Riverside. From all appearances, the classic California ranch home looked almost like everyone else's on the block, though neighbors said they now realize the children seemed pale and they never saw any sports equipment on the front lawn.
The 17-year-old told the dispatcher that she and her 12 brothers and sisters were being held, sometimes with chains and padlocks, by her parents. The age range of the siblings are 2 to 29. All the children are the biological offspring of the couple, officials said, and all were found severely malnourished.
When deputies went to the home, which has now earned the nickname "House of Horror" by some media outlets, they found several children shackled to their beds and the conditions were "dark and foul-smelling," the sheriff said.
The parents could not immediately provide a "logical reason" why their children "were restrained in this manner," the sheriff said. And they were taken into custody.
Neighbors were stunned to learned what had been going on next door and across the street.
"Why would someone have kids if they're going to treat them like that?" neighbor Andrea Valdez asked rhetorically.
Neighbor Kimberly Milligan said she thought something was odd with the family -- she never saw a bike or a skateboard out front. But she said she never "thought something like that" would have been going on inside. Still, now that she thinks about it, Milligan said that the older children she had met before did not seem to be "socially or psychologically" in their 20s.
Neighbor Ricardo Ross said "everybody was super skinny. Not athletic skinny. Malnourished skinny."
The children often were dressed in the same exact outfits.
Public records show that the home's address is also listed in the state Department of Education directory as the Sandcastle Day School, a private K-12 campus. David Turpin is listed as the principal. Federal records show the couple has filed for bankruptcy twice.
David and Louise Turpin posted this photo two years ago at what appears to be a wedding ceremony.— Lisa Fernandez (@ljfernandez) January 16, 2018
Their 13 children were freed Suday after being held in chains and padlocks, the Riverside County sheriff says. https://t.co/eP1B8VzrFe pic.twitter.com/mGlTb02pHv
Ivan Trahan, an attorney who represented the couple in their latest bankruptcy in 2011, told the Los Angeles Times on Monday he was shocked at news of the arrests. He also said that Turpin worked as an engineer at Northrop Grumman, an aeronautics and defense technology company. A spokesman for Lockheed Martin told the Times that Turpin worked for the company until 2010.
"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," the attorney said. "They seemed like very normal people who fell into financial problems."
In the Bay Area, the biggest child captivity tragedy befell Jaycee Dugard, which has many similarities to that of the Turpin children, though her abductors were not her mom or dad.
Dugard was kidnapped in 1991 when she was 11 from Tahoe, California and held captive for nearly two decades. She gave birth to two girls, and all three lived in the back shed of her kidnapper Phillip Garrido.
She was finally freed in 2009 when Garrido took Dugard and their daughters to visit UC Berkeley. The visit sparked an investigation to his home in Antioch, where she had been held for 18 years.
In June of 2011, Garrido was sentenced to 431 to life in prison and his wife, Nancy, received 36 years in prison.
Dugard wrote a book, "A Stolen Life," and now runs the JAYC Foundation, to help families cope with trauma after an abduction. She did not return calls on Tuesday seeking comment.
Fox 11's Stephanie Stanton @Newzysteph contributed to this report.