Allen Turpin, 57, and his wife, Louise Anna Turpin, 49 were arrested and charged with torture and child endangerment after police discovered their children— aged 2 to 29—starving in their Californian home.
Riverside County district attorney Mike Hestrin said the children were tied up with ropes by their parents, and restrained by chains and padlocks when one sibling managed to break free. He told press the children had not been allowed to shower more than once a year.
"Punishment would last weeks or even months at a time," Hestrin alleged, CNN reports.
The district attorney said the parents would bring food home for themselves but would not allow their children to eat; the 29-year-old female sibling is said to have weighed just 37kgs.
“They [parents] would buy food including pies, apple pies, pumpkin pies, leave it on the counter, let the children look at it, but not eat the food,” Mr Hestrin said.
"This is severe, emotional, physical abuse. ... This is depraved conduct,"
As the BBC reports, Mr Turpin is also facing a charge of performing a lewd act on a child in addition to the torture and false imprisonment charges levelled at both parents.
Police were alerted to the Turpin home after one of the children, a 17-year-old girl, allegedly escaped on Sunday morning and used a mobile phone she had found in the house to call authorities, The New York Times reports.
“Deputies located what they believed to be 12 children inside the house but were shocked to discover that seven of them were actually adults,” a police statement reads.
“The victims appeared to be malnourished and very dirty.”
According to The Guardian, some of the children were allegedly chained to beds. Police said some of the siblings told officers they were starving.
Images obtained from a Facebook page that appears to have been set up by the parents show the siblings dressed in matching outfits at a wedding and in Dr Seuss-style shirts.
Police are yet to provide a reason why the children were held captive or reveal how long they had been held. Neighbours have told local media that the Turpins rarely came outside.
David and Louise Turpin’s bail has been set at $13.1 million each; the couple is due in court on Thursday.