A neighbor said the 13 people between the ages of 2 and 29, who were allegedly held captive inside a California home, said they appeared pale and “odd.”
“It was about 9 p.m. at night and we came around right here and at the gate, we saw four children inside,” Wendy Martinez told the Daily Mail. “They were on their knees, four little kids, and they were just rolling on the grass. It was odd at that time of night.”
She said that “their mother was in the archway, I just remember the mother in the archway, and I said, ‘hi.”
“There was like no movement, not even to look over to see who’s saying hi. No movement, like if they were told not to speak to anybody. The mom, no movement at all,” she said.
“Honestly, I didn’t see like they needed help,” she said. “It was awkward that it was at 9 p.m. at night but they were in their yard.”
Officials revealed this week that Louise and David Turpin of Perris, California, kept their children in “horrific” conditions, with some being chained to furniture.
The couple was arrested on Sunday and each charged with nine counts of torture and 10 counts of child endangerment, the sheriff’s office said. They were each held on $9 million bail, with a court hearing scheduled for Thursday, Jan 18.
Authorities were alerted after one of the children, an emaciated, 17-year-old girl, called police after escaping through a window of the house in Perris, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles.
“I appreciate the courage this juvenile had to escape that house and get out there and report this to law enforcement,” Captain Greg Fellows of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said in an update, Reuters reported.
Police said they found three of the couple’s 13 children, who range in age from 2 to 29, shackled with chains and padlocks inside the dark, foul-smelling residence, located in a suburban housing tract.
“(Police) noticed the children were malnourished,” Fellows said at a briefing. “It was very dirty, and the conditions were horrific.”
Authorities were seeking court authorization to take custody of the children. Child Protective Services was assisting in an investigation.
“Police officer kept talking and she kept just, like, smirking and, like, kinda, like, she spit twice down at the floor,” an unnamed neighbor told The Mirror about Louise, 49.
“She was, like, just coughing, acting a little weird, just, like, kept looking,” the neighbor added.
“I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this. It’s so sad,” said neighbor Jennifer Luna, CBS News reported. “The older kids, I thought they were, like, 12, because they looked so malnourished, so pale,” Kimberly Milligan added.
“Why don’t we ever see the kids?” Milligan said she asked herself, Reuters reported. “In hindsight, we would have never thought this. But there were red flags. You never don’t hear or see nine kids.”
The children were homeschooled, and their father was listed in state records as the principal of Sandcastle Day School, which is located at the home’s address.
Reuters contributed to this report.