Despite being 17, police said the girl who alerted them appeared around 10 years old and was "slightly emaciated".
The girl reportedly managed to flee with a cell phone and called police at 6 a.m. on Sunday, telling them her 12 siblings were still in the house, some chained to their beds.
Officials were "shocked" to find out seven were actually adults, 18 to 29 years old.
Authorities arrested both David and Louise Turpin, booked them into the Robert Presley Detention Center, and charged them with torture and child endangerment. Their bonds have been set at $9 million each.
Dr. Sophia Grant, medical director of the child abuse and neglect unit for the Riverside University Health System, said it will take lengthy physical and emotional therapy for the children to recover. The seven adult children were taken to a different hospital in the area for treatment. She is believed to be the 13th victim. According to the website, the status of the school is "active".
The couple said they hadn't seen their son and daughter-in-law since visiting them in California four to five years ago.
"I had no idea this was going on", he told the Press-Enterprise of Riverside.
Representatives for the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Riverside County Fire Department would not immediately say whether the Turpins' home was ever inspected. Authorities said many of them appeared far younger than their actual age because of poor nutrition. "It was mostly girls. kind of small-framed".
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"I thought the kids were home-schooled", she said. "I can't believe this".
David is registered as the principal of their home school, Sandcastle Day School at the family house, teaching first to 12th grade. Parents are expected to be brought to court on Thursday. The documents listed debts of about $240,000, which included mostly credit card debt and a foreclosed farm in Rio Vista, Texas, valued at $40,000. "They had fun. They seemed to be happy - all of them". "Like they had never seen people before".
"We have been so anxious about them because it's been so odd but there was nothing we could do".
However, a family facebook account shows the Turpin's enjoying various family vacations to Disney world and to Los Vegas to renew the parent's wedding vows in 2011, 2013, and 2015.
One neighbour told Reuters that the Turpin family "were the type that you didn't really get to know anything about them".
Police provided food and drink to the children "after they claimed to be starving", the statement said.
The children were very pale, Milligan said.
"It was easier to keep up with the kids" that way, she said. Capt Fellows called it torture. "They spoke often and fondly of their children".