The extended families of the 13 California children who police say were starved and tortured are speaking out.
Betty and James Turpin say they were in shock when they learned of the arrest of their son David Turpin and his wife, Louise Turpin this week. They say their son's family looked happy and healthy when they last visited California from their home in West Virginia six years ago.
David and Louise were arrested on Sunday. Police said in a statement that they found several of the children, ranging in age from two to 29, "shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings."
Betty Turpin says her son told her he had so many kids because God wanted him to. They told the Southern California News Group that their grandchildren all called each other "sweetie" and none of them appeared malnourished.
She says her son claimed to be a Pentecostal Christian but he wasn't affiliated with a church in California.
But critics say there was nothing Christian about Turpin's behavior.
columnist Cherly K. Chumley challenged the couple's so-called "religion" writing
, "God had nothing to do with this evil. In fact, this couple gives God a bad name. This is how religion is destroyed; this is how faith gets shattered."
Chumley goes on to comment on the number of people — neighbors, family lawyers, and others — who were "shocked," noting how many red flags flew right by them.
She writes, "But this is how evil very often works — it comes dressed and draped in light, appearing as 'nice' or 'Christian' or otherwise 'good.' And this case serves as an eye-opening reminder of the need to not be fooled by outward appearances."
Louise Turpin's sister, Elizabeth Flores, spoke with several news outlets noting her years of concerns. Flores says she was never welcome in her sister and brother-in-law's home once the kids were born, though she lived with the couple briefly years ago. She told a local news station
that David was a "creep" back then.
"If I were to get in the shower, he would come in while I was in there and watch me, like it was like a joke," she said.
In a separate tearful interview
, Flores said she used to beg her sister to skype them and see her nieces and nephews for 20 years. She said, "I want them to know that they do have family that love them whether they know us or not."
Teresa Robinette, Louise's other sister, spoke about their childhood saying, "Our life wasn't perfect but she didn't live like that. Neither did David, I knew his parents."
The accused couple made their first court appearance Thursday where they pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of torture, child abuse and false imprisonment.
And more disturbing details are emerging about the extreme abuse the 13 children faced. Prosecutors say at first the Turpins just neglected their children, but eventually it turned into severe, prolonged abuse.
Twelve of the children were severely starved, the 29-year-old weighing just 82 pounds.
Riverside County DA Mike Hestrin said, "They began to be tied up. First with ropes, one victim at one point was tied up and hogtied. These defendants eventually began using chains and padlocks to chain up the victims to their beds."
Officials say when the 17-year-old daughter fled the home and called authorities on Sunday, it was the culmination of two years of planning.