A couple accused of imprisoning their 13 children in dark and filthy conditions in their Perris, Calif., home believed it was by God’s will that they had a large family, according to reports.
The parents of David Turpin told ABC News their son and his wife Louise had so many children because “God called on them.”
James and Betty Turpin said they were “surprised and shocked” by the allegations their son and daughter-in-law now face, the news station reported.
David and Louise Turpin are accused of using chains and padlocks to shackle several of their children to their beds in “dark and foul-smelling surroundings,” the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said.
“The parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in that manner,” officials said.
Police discovered the conditions at the Turpin home after one of their daughters escaped from the house and used a cell phone she found to call 911.
The girl, who police said was emaciated and appeared to be only 10 but was actually 17, told cops that her 12 brothers and sisters were being held captive.
“Deputies located what they believed to be 12 children inside the house, but were shocked to discover that 7 of them were actually adults, ranging in age from 18 to 29,” the sheriff’s department said.
David and Louise Turpin were charged with torture and child endangerment. They are each being held at the Robert Presley Detention Center on $9 million bail.
James and Betty Turpin, who live in West Virginia, said their grandchildren were given “very strict homeschooling,” which included memorizing long Bible passages, ABC News reported.
Sandcastle Day School, a private school with six pupils, has operated out of the Turpin’s Perris home since March 2011, according to the California Department of Education.
David Turpin, 57, is listed as the school’s principal.
He and Louise Turpin, 49, are Pentecostals, but were not part of a church in their area and were not known to be friends with anyone in the community, his parents said.
The grandparents reportedly said they last visited the family about four or five years ago, when their grandchildren appeared thin but happy.
But neighbors said they saw the children only a handful of times and were stunned to learn there were 13 of them in the home.
"They were very pale-skinned, almost like they'd never seen the sun," one neighbor told ABC News, noting she would sometimes see some children working on the lawn together. “It was mostly girls, kind of small-framed, kind of tiny; almost looked a little malnutritioned."
Photos posted on what appeared to be David and Louise Turpin’s shared Facebook account showed the family took trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas.
Several pictures appeared to be taken at a vow renewal ceremony at the Elvis Chapel in Las Vegas, in which David and Louise Turpin wore a tux and white gown. Ten female children smiled for the camera while wearing matching purple and pink plaid dresses and white shoes, while three male children wore black suits and pink ties.
"They didn’t appear to be not healthy, the only way I could tell the difference in their age was from their height, because the older girls, they look young," Elvis impersonator Kent Ripley told Inside Edition. "The boys all looked the same."
Ripley presided over the couple's three vow renewals, noting: "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."
A friend commented at the time on a photo of one of the events, writing: “I watched your wedding video. It was great. Your children are so well behaved. I am so proud of you Louise and David. You have a great family.”