A couple have been arrested for allegedly keeping their 13 children captive in their California home, chained to their beds with padlocks.
Neighbours in Perris near Los Angeles said they were stunned by the arrests of David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, who have been held on charges of torture and child endangerment.
Police said their children – aged between 2 and 29 – were found so malnourished they believed they were all children, even though seven of them are adults.
One neighbour, Kimberly Milligan, 50, told the Los Angeles Times: “I thought the kids were home-schooled. You know something is off, but you don’t want to think bad of people.”
She said she once said hello to the children but they looked at her “like a child who wants to make themselves invisible”.
One neighbour said the family “were the type that you didn’t really get to know anything about them”.
The neighbour said: “You would never see them on visit, you would never see anyone come outside. All you would really see is that they go out and maybe do a grocery round. And that was about it.”
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Andrew Santillan, who lives around the corner, told the Press-Enterprise of Riverside: “I had no idea this was going on. I didn’t know there were kids in the house.”
Other neighbours described the family as intensely private.
A few years ago, Robert Perkins said he and his mother saw a few family members constructing a Nativity scene in the Turpins’ front yard. Mr Perkins said he complimented them on it.
“They didn’t say a word,” he said.
The alarm was raised after one of the siblings, a girl aged 17, managed to escape the house on Sunday and call police on a mobile phone she had found inside.
Officers said she appeared to be “only 10 years old and slightly emaciated”.
She was met by police who interviewed her and then went to the family home in Perris.
Police said they found “several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings”. They are all being treated in local hospitals.
The children, ages two to 29, “appeared to be malnourished and very dirty,” according to officers who arrested the parents.
Their parents have been held on $9 million (£6.5 million) bail.
The Turpins filed for bankruptcy in 2011, stating in court documents they owed between $100,000 (£72,500) and $500,000 (£362,000), The New York Times reported.
At that time, Mr Turpin worked as an engineer at Northrop Grumman and earned $140,000 (£100,000) annually and his wife was a homemaker, records showed.
Their bankruptcy lawyer, Ivan Trahan, told the Times he never met the children but the couple “spoke about them highly.”
“We remember them as a very nice couple,” Mr Trahan said, adding that Louise Turpin told him the family loved Disneyland and visited often.