The grandmother of 13 children who were allegedly kept inside a “house of horrors” is defending the Perris, Calif., couple accused of abuse, including shackling their children to their beds.
Betty Turpin said she was in “total shock” to learn her 57-year-old son David Turpin and his 49-year old wife Louise Turpin could face torture and child endangerment charges. Police said they found the couple’s 13 children, between the ages of 2 and 29, living in “dark and foul-smelling” conditions in their Perris, Calif., home Sunday after a 17-year-old girl escaped and called 911, claiming her parents were holding her siblings captive.
“We don’t believe anything until we find definite proof,” Betty Turpin, 81, told TIME on Tuesday. “It’s just a one-sided story. You can’t always go with that.”
Betty Turpin said her son is college-educated and had a good upbringing. “He’s very likable,” she said. “Raised in a Christian home all his life. Gone to church all his life.”
She told CNN that her son and his wife had always been “very protective” of their children. “This is a highly respectable family,” she said, adding that the family had annual passes to Disneyland and they all wore matching clothing when they went out.
Several of the children were found bound to their beds with chains and padlocks in the dark, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.
Of the 13 siblings, seven are adults. The sheriff’s office said the children appeared to be “malnourished and very dirty.” Authorities said their parents could not immediately explain why the children were shackled.
Several neighbors were shocked to hear of the charges. “I had no idea this was going on,” neighbor Andrew Santillan told the Press-Enterprise of Riverside. “I didn’t know there were kids in the house.”
David and Louise Turpin are being held on $9 million bail each. It’s unclear if attorneys are representing them.