The grandparents of 13 siblings allegedly held captive by their parents in the US have described them as a good Christian family and spoken of their shock.
Police in LA arrested David and Louise Turpin, 57 and 49, after discovering their children chained to their beds, emaciated and living in shocking conditions.
Officials had been alerted to the family’s condition after one child, a 17-year-old girl, managed to escape and call the police on Sunday morning.
James and Betty Turpin, from West Virginia, told ABC News they are “surprised and shocked” by the allegations of torture and child endangerment against the couple, who they said were considered a good Christian couple amongst the community.
They had not seen the family since visiting them around five years ago and stayed in contact over the phone.
Police said the 17-year-old was so malnourished when she was interviewed that officers initially believed her to be a girl aged just 10.
When officers visited the home in Perris, they found her 12 brothers and sisters locked up in filthy conditions, some so malnourished officers at first believed all were children even though seven are aged between 18 and 29-years-old.
They found several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark, foul-smelling surroundings, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
The children, one aged as young as two, “appeared to be malnourished and very dirty,” according to a press release announcing Sunday’s arrest of the parents.
“The victims were provided with food and beverages after they claimed to be starving.”
The Turpins were held on $9 million bail (£6.5m) and could face charges including torture and child endangerment.
The children were believed to have been homeschooled by their parents, as records show the family home was registered as Sandcastle Day School, where David Turpin is listed as principal.
Neighbours said they were stunned by the arrests, with some saying they had no idea there were children living in the house.
The Turpins filed for bankruptcy in 2011, stating in court documents they owed between $100,000 and $500,000, The New York Times reported. At that time, Turpin worked as an engineer at Northrop Grumman and earned $140,000 annually and his wife was a homemaker, records showed.
Their bankruptcy lawyer, Ivan Trahan, told the Times he never met the children but the couple “spoke about them highly.”
“We remember them as a very nice couple,” Trahan said, adding that Louise Turpin told him the family loved Disneyland and visited often.