The grandparents of 13 hungry and tortured children say their son's family seemed happy and healthy when they visited California for the last time six years ago.
"They were like any ordinary family," said Betty Turpin, the 81-year-old woman. old mother of David Turpin. "And they had such good relationships, I'm not just saying these things, those kids, we were amazed, they were loving, and loving to each other."
Betty Turpin and her husband James Turpin of Princeton, West Virginia visited their son's family for five days at their previous home in Murrieta, California.
Betty Turpin told the Southern California News Group on Wednesday that they are still in shock to learn that their son and wife were arrested. This week, their children, aged 2 to 29, were found malnourished and some with shackles.
David and Louise Turpin, who are on bail of $ 9 million, are expected to make their first court appearance on Thursday and could face charges that include torture and endangering children, authorities said. Prosecutors plan a press conference for earlier in the day.
Betty Turpin said her son told her that she had so many children because God wanted her to. She said her son shared his Pentecostal Christian faith, but that he was not affiliated with a church in California.
"I feel they were model Christians," he said. "It's hard to believe all this … Over the years, the Lord knows what happened."
James Turpin said during his visit, "They all seemed to me well adjusted, they were not skinny or anything, they were happy to see us."
He said they were dealing with social workers to try to communicate with their grandchildren, who are hospitalized while recovering from their long experience of years.
On Wednesday, authorities searched the couple's current home in Perris, 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles, where one of the daughters, a 17-year-old girl, jumped out the window and called 911 on Sunday. The investigators pulled out dozens of boxes, what appeared to be two safety boxes and pieces of a bed frame.
Some brothers were chained to furniture in the four-room malodorous house that seemed perfectly normal from the outside.
The Turpins have lived in two communities in Riverside County since moving to California in 2011, and police said they were never called to either of the two homes or to the reports filed by the child protection services.
It is not clear what motivated the Turpins to live a secluded life with their large offspring or what happened in the house.
It is also not clear why the teenager fled when she did, breaking a silence that probably lasted for years.
Psychiatrists say that even in cases of extreme deprivation, it is common for feelings of helplessness or confusion to remain in place despite opportunities to flee.
"This happens all the time, the number of people who would respond immediately to an opportunity they could leave is very small compared to the number of people who would have this paralysis and insecurity and confusion about what to do," said Dr. Bruce Perry, a psychiatrist and senior member of the ChildTrauma Academy in Houston.
The vulnerable girl could have been embarrassed, beaten or threatened with violence and only after many missed opportunities did she probably have the courage to act, Perry said.
"It's pretty remarkable that she did that," he said. "The power that must have been exercised to keep such a family together for so long must have been quite sophisticated."
The writers of The Associated Press Emily Schmall in Rio Vista, Texas, and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles contributed to this report.