THE aunt of the children in the Christian family abuse case says she knew her sister Louise and husband David Turpin were "odd" but was unaware "they were torturing our nieces and nephews".
As authorities describe the house where they found the Turpin children emaciated and shackled as a "torture" chamber, relatives of the devout Pentecostal family are speaking out.
Although nondescript from the outside, the home was a stinking mess inside, Riverside County Sheriff's Captain Greg Fellows said.
The home was very dirty, reeked, and was in a "horrific" condition, said Fellows. He described the teenager who alerted police to the hellhole as being so emaciated it was thought she was a child.
"If you can imagine being 17 years old and appearing to be a 10-years-old, being chained to a bed, being malnourished and injuries associated with that, I would call that torture," he said.
And as Louise Turpin's relatives spoke out, further news emerged about the couple's earlier lives in a Texas farmhouse where strange vents were found in the closets of the main bedroom.
Residents of tiny Rio Vista, near Fort Worth Texas, said vents in the Turpin's former house may have been made to keep oxygen flowing to children locked in the closets.
When the family sold up, the new owner found it full of rubbish, indicated the couple were hoarders, just as one of the Turpins' California neighbours have claimed.
Louise Turpin was also a drink driving suspect following an arrest during their time in Texas.
It was from this squat brown house that the young woman took a mobile phone, jumped from a window on Sunday and led police to the discovery which has shocked the world.
Sheriff's deputies said they found 13 children ranging from 2 to 29 years old, some of them chained to furniture, all of them thin and malnourished.
Louise Turpin's younger sister McCeary Lee, who lives on the Pacific island of Guam, described the couple as "extremely private people who rarely spoke to any of us".
Ms Lee said Louise and David failed to attend the funerals of her parents, Phyllis Robinette and Wayne Robinette, who died within months of each other, both in their 60s, in 2016.
"We knew David and Louise were a bit odd, but there was no way in hell we knew they were torturing our nieces and nephews," Ms Lee posted on Facebook.
Louise Turpin is one of five children to Phyllis, a Wal-Mart clerk and church singer.
Louise's father Wayne was a draftsman and county assessor and surveyor, and devout religious man, and may have been separated or divorced from Phyllis.
US reports say Louise's parents had tried to visit their daughter and son-in-law in the past, and had to turn back at the airport when the Turpins refused to provide their street address.
Other relatives said they rarely visited the Turpins, and never the dark, stinking hellhole in Perris, California where the Turpin couple's children were found shackled or cuffed to beds.
Neighbours said they either saw no children living there, or that the children were "very pale" and did not speak when approached.
The alarm was raised when the Turpin daughter aged 17 escaped and dialled 911 to say her brothers and sisters were being held captive.
The girl was so tiny that deputies initially mistook her for a 10-year-old.
Ms Lee said of Facebook comments that the children were obviously emaciated, "Looking at pictures and saying 'you can tell they're malnourished' is a hell of a lot easier to do after you read a news report that says they were being starved".
The couple, who have been married 32 years but had renewed their wedding vows three times in six years with an Elvis impersonator celebrant in Las Vegas, kept to themselves.
With David Turpin as principal of "Sandcastle Day School", their home schooling operation, the parents taught and heavily preached to their children, who are aged two and 29 years old.
The six adults and seven children who make up the Turpin siblings dressed alike, wore haircuts matching their same gender parent and reportedly learnt the Bible off by heart.
The house where the Riverside Sheriff's Department found them emaciated and "shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings", from the outside looked orderly.
The one level brown bungalow in the Riverside county middle-class neighbourhood of Perris south of San Bernardino had just four bedrooms for the large family.
The house was devoid of toys or bicycles. Neighbours say they didn't see much of the family who purchased it in 2014.
Kimberly Milligan, described the family as "stand-offish" hoarders who had their garage filled with books and who often let the grass in their front yard grow out of control.
Another neighbour, Julio Reyes, said the Turpins "look pretty normal" and he had seen the teenagers mowing the lawn and putting up Christmas decorations last year.
The Turpins had filed for bankruptcy twice in the past six years.
Louise Turpin, who one friend described as a "super mom" when she posted family photos of her 13 children on
Facebook, did not work.
Her husband had two stints as an engineer at security company Northrop, but the couple had suffered credit card debt and had foreclosed on a family farm.
They bought the $315,000 house in Perris, an area known for its high level of home foreclosures, after moving from nearby Murrieta.
The couple appears to have moved house reasonably often, perhaps as many as eight times.
They lived in Rio Vista, Texas, up until 2010 before they moved to California.
In 2008, police in Burleson Texas listed Louise Turpin as a drink driving suspect.
In Rio Vista, which in 2000 had a population under 700 people, the Turpins lived in a house on the edge of town.
A neighbour who wished to remain anonymous told WFAA/ABC news that the family were such hoarders that at one point they moved out of the house and into a mobile home on the property.
The woman who now lives in the house told WFAA the family and all the children lived largely indoors.
"She never allowed her children to go outside and play. They homeschooled every one of them and one day they just up and left," she said. The home was left strewn with junk.
Inside the home, the current owner found unusual openings in the master bedroom closet.
"There are two vents in the closet, and they are covered up now," she said.
She wondered if they had been used to keep the couple's children locked in the closet.
The Turpins departed Texas for California, leaving unpaid medical bills.
One of the Turpins' California neighbours, Wendy Martinez, said her only contact came as she passed the house at night last October.
Four children were installing turf in the garden while the mother watched from the door, and none responded when Ms Martinez said hello.
"They were very, like, afraid," she said of the children. "Like they had never seen people before."
A few years ago, Robert Perkins said he and his mother saw a few family members constructing a Nativity scene in the Turpins' front yard. Perkins said he complimented them on it.
"They didn't say a word," he said.
When authorities confronted the children's mother, Louise Turpin in the "torture" house at Perris on Sunday, Fellows said she appeared "perplexed" about why officers were at the home.
The couple was jailed on $US9 million bail for charges of child endangerment and torture.
They were scheduled for an initial court appearance on Thursday.
Fellows said there was no indication any of the children were sexually abused, although that was still being investigated.
Ms Lee hit back at suggestions the couple's youngest child, a girl aged two, was the result of incest between David Turpin and one of his daughters.
Neither sheriff's deputies nor child welfare officials had received a single call over the years about the Turpin home.
Videos posted on YouTube show the couple renewed their vows at the Elvis Chapel in Las Vegas three times in recent years, most recently on Halloween 2015.
Elvis impersonator Kent Ripley performed all three ceremonies. Most of the children, dressed in matching outfits, took part.
Numerous photos on the couple's Facebook page show the children dancing at the ceremony, visiting an amusement park that appears to be Disneyland and going on other outings, looking thin but often smiling.
Kent Ripley told Fox News that he vividly remembered the Turpin family.
"They didn't appear to be not healthy," he said.
"The only way I could tell the difference in their age was from their height because the older girls, they looked young and the boys looked all the same.
"Their family kept growing so I figured in a couple more years I'd see them again. Then I hear the news today and it's hard to believe that."
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