The sister of a California woman accused of torturing her 13 malnourished children says family members attempted to communicate with the family through the years but were repeatedly rebuffed.
"I want to reach out to the kids, I want them to know that for years we begged to Skype, we begged to see them, the whole family,” Elizabeth Jane Flores said, a sister of Louise Turpin, told Good Morning America.
"She just shut us out of her life," she said.
Turpin, 49, and husband David Turpin, 57, are being held in lieu of $9 million bail after their arrests Sunday in Perris. Authorities tell a sad tale: The couple's 17-year-old daughter fled the family home and called 911, saying her 12 sisters and brothers were being held by their parents, some shackled to their beds.
Responding officers found filthy conditions and malnourished "children" ranging in age from 2 to 29. At least three were shackled to furniture, said Captain Greg Fellows, with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
Flores also said she lived with the family for a short time early in the marriage when the couple had four children.
"He did things that made me feel uncomfortable," she said. "If I were to get in the shower, he would come in there while I was in there and watch me, and it was like a joke. He never touched me or anything."
Teresa Robinette, another sister of Louise, said family members believed David Turpin was treating her sister "like a queen" — but wondered why she never let them talk with the kids.
"We always thought she was living the perfect life," said Robinette, who lives in Tennessee. "She would tell us they went to Disneyland all the time, they would go to Vegas."
Facebook photos support that claim: pictures of the smiling family posted through the years from Disneyland and from a chapel in Las Vegas where the couple renewed their vows on multiple occasions.
Kent Ripley, an Elvis impersonator who sang Can’t Help Falling in Love at a vow renewal, told NBC the kids were quiet and well-behaved.
“They never appeared to be anything other than a big family that stayed together, traveled together and did everything together,” Ripley said. “They weren’t bossed around. They weren’t yelled at. They smiled a lot.”
Robinette said Louise left home at 16 to marry Turpin, adding that her sister was a tough disciplinarian with the kids.
"They weren't allowed to watch TV," Robinette said. "They weren't allowed to talk on the phone, have friends over, stuff like that. Normal things that kids do.”