The aunt of the 13 siblings allegedly held captive by their parents spoke out Wednesday, offering insight into the lives of the reclusive California family.
The parents — David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49 — were jailed on $9-million bail each, after police discovered their children shackled to beds “in dark and foul-smelling surroundings.”
Charges that may include torture and child endangerment could come Wednesday and a court appearance is scheduled for Thursday, according to authorities.
Louise Anna Turpin’s sister, Elizabeth Jane Flores, spoke to ABC’s Good Morning America, explained that the news shocked and devastated her. Flores added that she has had an estranged relationship with her sister and brother-in-law for nearly 20 years.
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“We were never allowed to be a part of their lives,” she said, explaining that the family has tried to arrange Skype calls with the children over the years but were always rejected.
Flores recounted experiences she had with the family several years ago when she lived with them in Texas while in college. She explained that the couple was very strict, and treated her like one of the children.
At times, her brother-in-law’s behaviour made her uncomfortable, she said.
“If I were to get in the shower, he would come in there while I was in there and watch me, and it was like a joke. He never touched me or anything.”
Flores remained in touch with the family while she lived in Texas, but says her sister always came to her house without children. Flores says she wasn’t allowed past the driveway at the Turpin family’s home.
“There was never any children, it was just always her and David. I would always say, ‘I wish you would bring the kids.'”
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Now, Flores says she hopes the children will know that they have family that loves them — even if they have never met.
“I love Louise, but the kids are my concern,” the aunt said, adding she’s praying for her sister’s “salvation.”
Louise’s other sister, Teresa Robinette, also gave some insight into the couple’s strict parenting style, as she appeared on NBC’s Today show.
“They weren’t allowed to watch TV. They weren’t allowed to have friends over — the normal things that kids do,” Robinette said Wednesday.
The aunt added that she would often ask her sister why the kids were so skinny. Police have confirmed they are underweight and malnourished.
“I always made comments to Louise when I did talk to her, about, gosh, they are so skinny,” Robinette said. “She would laugh it off and say David’s so tall and lanky, they are going to be like him.”
WATCH: Neighbours describe 12 kids found locked in California home
The grandparents of the children have also spoken out since news of the arrests broke Monday. David Allen Turpin’s parents, James and Betty Turpin, told ABC News they were “shocked” by the news, and had not visited with the family in several years but were in contact over the phone.
The grandparents explained that the couple had a large family because “God called on them” to have many children and that they were a Christian family. They added that the couple was “very strict” about homeschooling the children.
The family’s tendency to keep to themselves was also noticed by neighbours.
Neighbours told NBC News that the family was private and generally kept to themselves. They explained that the children were very thin, and often looked unhealthy and pale when seen outside.
Police are still investigating the case, with the children receiving medical treatment. At a news conference Tuesday, police confirmed that the children were held for a “prolonged period of time.”
Details on the children’s current conditions are scarce due to privacy reasons.
— With files from the Associated Press