Authorities say an upscale California home was a house of horrors where mentally disabled adults, many of them Vietnamese immigrants, were beaten, starved and not even allowed to use toilet paper.
The victims lived among rotting food and more than two dozen dogs whose urine and feces littered the home, authorities said.
“The conditions were pretty deplorable,” Santa Clara County Assistant District Attorney Charles Huang said on Monday.
“The general impression was that the dogs appeared to be better off than the victims,” he said.
Earlier this month, five family members were charged with dependent adult abuse and animal neglect, both felonies.
On Monday, suspects George Dac Nguyen, Jennifer Ngo, Charles Nguyen and Margaret Ngo were taken into custody after a judge increased their bail to US$500,000. They are due back in court on Aug. 21.
An arrest warrant has been issued for a fifth suspect, Kathy Le, authorities said.
The relatives could spend up to 18 years in prison, if convicted.
Investigators say the alleged victims — many with schizophrenia and other disorders — told them they were not always given their medication. They were kept in small rooms virtually all day, and their Social Security checks were taken by the suspects.
Outside, the home featured tall mesh fencing and a handful of surveillance cameras.
“It doesn’t appear the victims were free to go about in the house,” Huang said. “There was excrement and urine virtually all around the house. That was a very troubling issue.”
In May, police removed the victims and placed them under protective custody at a licensed care center.
However, someone checked a handful of the victims out of the hospital and returned them to the house, along with 21 dogs, for about a month.
Again, police arrived at the home and removed three victims and the dogs on July 2, Huang said.
“I don’t know what their motivations were upon returning,” Huang said. “These victims did not deserve to be treated the way they had been.”