The aunt of the 13 siblings who were allegedly tortured and starved in a Southern California home said she always noticed the children were “skinny” – and that they were raised in a strict household where dating, TV and outside friends were forbidden by their parents.
However, Teresa Robinette — whose sister, Louise Turpin, is accused in the “house of horrors” child endangerment case — told NBC News that she didn’t recognize any red flags that the children were being mistreated.
“We are as hurt and shocked and angry and disappointed as everybody else,” Robinette said, with tears streaming down her face.
Authorities said Turpin’s 13 biological children, who ranged in age from 2 to 29, were malnourished and dirty when deputies found them all living in “horrific” conditions Sunday inside their family’s home in Perris, Calif. At least three of the children were found shackled to furniture with chains and padlocks, Capt. Greg Fellows of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday.
Robinette revealed that her nieces and nephews lived a very restricted life in the home.
“They weren’t allowed to date. They didn’t have a social life. They weren’t allowed to watch TV,” she said. “They weren’t allowed to talk on the phone, have friends over — the normal things that kids do.”
The children were also noticeably thin, Robinette added. “I always made comments to Louise when I did talk to her, about, ‘gosh, they are so skinny,’” she said. “She would laugh it off and say, ‘David’s so tall and lanky. They are going to be like him.’ ”
Turpin and her 57-year-old husband David Turpin are jailed and could face torture and child endangerment charges. It’s unclear if attorneys are representing either of them.
Other relatives have also said they were unaware of any abuse in the family. David Turpin’s mother Betty Turpin told TIME on Tuesday that she was in “total shock” to learn her “very likable” son was accused in such a crime. “We don’t believe anything until we find definite proof,” she said.
The presence of law enforcement officers at her home also confused Louise Turpin herself, authorities said. Fellows said the mother was “perplexed” as to why police were inside her home.