According to Fellows, Sheriff's deputies had never received a call from the house or about suspected child abuse. A county child protective services official said that the 17-year-old girl's escape was the "first chance we had to intervene."
First responders to the scene released more details about the horrific and shocking conditions at the home of David and Louise Turpin on Muir Woods Road and their 13 children who appeared to have endured years of abuse.
On Tuesday, Fellows, commander of the sheriff's Perris station, said the girl escaped from a window in the home and called 911 from a deactivated cellphone to say her parents had been holding her and her siblings captive.
The youngest of the Turpin children is just 2 years old. Deputies initially judged by the children's frail and malnourished appearances that they were all minors. They later determined that seven of the 13 were adults ages 18 to 29. All of the children are believed to be David and Louise Turpin's biological children, Fellows said.
After first being given food and drinks upon their rescue by first responders, the Turpin children were relocated to local hospitals for assessment and treatment. County adult and child protective services agents and medical professionals are working with the siblings in what is expected to be a long road to recovery.
Fellows praised the courage of the teenager who called 911: "If you can imagine, being 17 years old and appearing to be a 10-year-old, being chained to a bed and being malnourished and injuries associated with that — I would call that torture."
"I can truly say that I am devastated at this act of cruelty," Perris Mayor Michael Vargas said of the incident. "I can't even begin to imagine the pain and suffering that they have endured."
Susan von Zabern, director of the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, said child services officials are seeking court authorization to care for the siblings, "including the adult children to the extent that that's necessary."
At this point, it is too early to pinpoint exactly how long the children have been malnourished or subjected to abuse, von Zabern said, but "their condition indicates it has been a prolonged period of time."
While social workers will try to identify relatives who could care for the children, von Zabern assured that they would "be subject to all kinds of background investigations to make sure they're suitable and stable."
Mark Uffer, chief executive of the Corona Regional Medical Center, said that the seven adult children — five females and two males ages 18 to 29 — are receiving care at his hospital.
"It's hard to think of them as adults when you first see them because they're small and their malnutrition," Uffer said. "They're stable; they're being fed." Uffer also reported that the siblings are staying in a secured area where they are able to be together and are being treated with a team of nurses familiar with the case.
As for the adult children's state, Uffer said that "they're very friendly. They're very cooperative, and I believe very hopeful that life will get better for them after this event."
Uffer said hospital staff members were "horrified" by the case and the young people's conditions. "I've been CEO for a long time," he said. "I've been in health care a long time. I've never seen this."