Two aunts of the 13 siblings rescued from an allegedly abusive home in California earlier this week are speaking out, saying in separate interviews they were “shocked” to learn their nieces and nephews were allegedly malnourished, living in squalor and were sometimes shackled to furniture.
“We are as hurt and shocked and angry and disappointed as everybody else,” said Teresa Robinette, sister of Louise Ann Turpin, through tears in an exclusive interview with NBC News, which aired Wednesday morning on Today.
Turpin, 49, and her husband, David Turpin, 56, were arrested Monday on suspicion of nine counts of torture and 10 counts of child endangerment after their 17-year-old daughter “escaped” from their home and called 911 on Jan. 14 to report that her 12 siblings were allegedly being held captive by their parents.
The Turpins are expected in court Thursday, where they may be asked to enter pleas to the charges they face. They are being held on $9 million bond.
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Robinette tells NBC News her sister would allegedly dismiss her sisters’ concerns the 13 children weren’t eating enough.
“I always made comments to Louise when I did talk to her about, ‘Gosh, they’re so skinny,'” Robinette said. “And she would laugh it off: ‘Well, David is so tall and lanky — they’re gonna be like him.'”
She also alleged in the interview that the Turpins forbade their home-schooled children from having romantic relationships.
“They weren’t allowed to date or they didn’t have a social life or they weren’t allowed to watch TV,” Robinette explained. “They weren’t allowed to talk on the phone, have friends over, stuff like that. The normal things that kids do.”
A neighbor of the family told PEOPLE on Tuesday the parents and children exhibited “odd” behaviors.
Elizabeth Flores, another of Louise Turpin’s estranged sisters, spoke to Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts on Wednesday, saying she was “devastated” by the news.
“I was shocked because my sister and I haven’t had a sisterly relationship for 20 years,” Flores said, noting she lived with her sister and brother-in-law in Texas for three months many years ago, when she was a college student. She considered their parenting style “really strict but I didn’t see any type of abuse.”
Flores said her sister and brother-in-law “were funny and private, even before they had children,” and said that David made her uncomfortable during her brief stay with them.
“If I went to get in the shower, he would come in while I was in there and would watch me and it was like a joke,” she alleged to Roberts, adding “he never touched me or anything.”
Flores said Louise cut off her entire family decades ago and refused to host their father, who booked a flight in 2012 hoping to see his grandchildren.
“He was real hurt because she told him to not come,” Flores said. “He called her to tell her he was coming and she told him not to come.”
Flores said she wants to see her nieces and nephews, so that they know they have relatives who love them, “whether they know us or not.” She said she begged her sister for years to have access to the kids, but was denied every time.
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“She’s still my blood and I love her,” Flores added. “I don’t agree with what she did and her actions [have] made the whole family suffer. I am praying for her salvation.”
Flores also told Roberts she was “so proud” of the 17-year-old niece who escaped the Perris, California, home on Monday to alert the authorities.