The American couple who allegedly tortured and imprisoned their 13 children were Elvis fanatics who believed “God called on them” to give birth so many times.
David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, were said to have forced their children to memorise passages of the Bible during “very strict” home schooling sessions.
Family members were reportedly kept away, with the children’s grandparents saying they had not seen them for around five years and an aunt saying she had not visited for 19 years.
The couple had their vows renewed by an Elvis impersonator three times, often with their children identically dressed looking on, according to photographs and footage.
The family had also filed for bankruptcy in 2011 and were said to have racked up debts of up to $500,000 despite Mr Turpin’s job as an engineer earning $140,000 a year.
Children lived in 'filthy' and 'foul-smelling' house
The details emerged as a shocked America attempted to understand how an apparently mild-mannered middle-aged couple had allegedly committed such a heinous crime.
The pair have been charged with nine counts of torture and 10 of child endangerment after being arrested at their home in Perris, California.
It followed a dramatic rescue of thirteen children aged between 2 and 29 who were discovered starving and some chained to items of furniture in the “filthy” and “foul-smelling” house.
Police only made the discovery after a 17-year-old girl fled the property through a window, stole a mobile phone and alerted officers to the children’s plight. She was so emaciated police thought she was only 10.
On arriving at the middle-class bungalow in Perris, a town of 70,000 situated 15 miles outside Riverside, they found the children kept in dark, squalid and stench-filled conditions. Some were shackled to their beds.
Many appeared far younger than their age because of the horrific conditions they appear to have been kept in, according to officials investigating the case.
The children are now being treated for malnutrition.
Mother 'perplexed' by police involvement
Greg Fellows, Riverside County sheriff's captain, revealed that Mrs Turpin had appeared "perplexed" as to why police were present at her home.
"The conditions were horrific," he said.
The children are all believed to be the Turpins' biological offspring, authorities said.
Mr Fellows said the investigation has so far found no indication of sexual abuse but that the conditions amounted to torture.
"If you can imagine being a 10-year-old and being chained to a bed ... I would call that torture," he said.
Mr Fellows praised the "bravery" of the teenager who managed to flee the house of horrors "through a window".
"I am very saddened to report on such a heartbreaking case," he said.
"Just before 6am a 17-year-old called deputies from a deactivated phone...she explained she had escaped through a window.
"She also showed some photos which proved what she was saying was accurate."
A spokeswoman from the county's social services department said that the children appeared to have been held for a "prolonged period of time".
But Mr Fellows added: "They've been through a very traumatic ordeal. They're very friendly, they're very cooperative and they're hopeful that life will get better".
Children attended Elvis wedding vows renewal
Until the summer of 2016 the family’s activities were well-documented on Facebook; photos showed trips to the beach and to visit Father Christmas, and a smiling clan at Disneyland, wearing matching outfits.
The last photos posted, in July 2016, showed the clan gathered in what appeared to be Las Vegas, with an Elvis impersonator performing their vow renewal ceremony.
It was the third time they had been photographed with the exact same Elvis, in the exact same outfits, at the Elvis Chapel in Downtown Las Vegas – Mrs Turpin’s changing hairstyles being the only difference.
Kent Ripley, the Elvis impersonator at the chapel, said he was "still disturbed" by the reports of abuse. "I mean they were sitting right around here three different times," he told Fox5 Vegas, indicating the rows of empty chairs in the chapel.
"[The Turpins] seemed to care about each other and care about the kids. They seemed to smile, the kids were smiling they didn't hide behind themselves, they were very quiet."
The family outings appear to have all stopped last July – five months after Mrs Turpin’s mother, Phyllis Robinette, died aged 66 in Princeton, West Virginia.
Shortly before she died, Mrs Robinette wrote on Facebook: “Would love to come and see you all.”
Sister: 'something was not right'
Mrs Turpin was one of six siblings, living as far afield as Guam, Georgia and Tennessee.
Her sister, Elizabeth Flores, an author, has previously written about being abused as a child.
On Tuesday she claimed she had not seen her sister in 19 years but knew that something was "not right" with her parenting style.
She added that she was never allowed to visit her sister or speak to her nieces and nephews.
The 41-year-old, who lives in Cleveland, Tennessee, told DailyMailTV: "Something didn't seem right about her parenting but never would I have expected it to be like this".
"We have been so worried about them because it's been so strange but there was nothing we could do. They wouldn't let anyone visit and we didn't know their address. I haven't seen her in 19 years. We would talk on the phone from time to time, but every time I would ask to talk to her kids, she wouldn't let me.
"My parents booked several flights to go see them but when they got there they wouldn't tell them where to go and my parents left crying every time. It's just heartbreaking and I'm so embarrassed about all of this."
Couple believed 'God called on them' to have so many children
Mr Turpin’s parents James and Betty, who live in West Virginia, described their son and his wife as being "deeply religious" and believing God had "called on them" to have so many children.
They were in the Pentecostal faith, the parents added.
They told ABC News that their grandchildren, whom they had not seen in around five years, were given "very strict home-schooling" and would memorise long passages in the Bible.
In March 2011, Mr Turpin registered in state records as head of a private school, the Sandcastle Day School, with its address that of the family home. The school only had six students.
House in a middle-class neighbourhood with four vehicles outside
Despite there being four cars parked outside, neighbours said they rarely saw the children outside the home, and were stunned to hear that 13 were living inside.
Some local residents said they sometimes saw some of the children come outside to work on the lawn together and then go back in together at the same time.
One neighbour said: “They were very pale-skinned, almost like they'd never seen the sun. It was mostly girls. Kind of small-framed, kind of tiny. Almost looked a little malnutritioned (sic)."
In 2011 the couple were declared bankrupt, with records showing that Mr Turpin was then working as an engineer for a defence contractor earning $140,000 a year, while his wife was listed as a homemaker.
Riverside County had become an emblem of bankruptcy and foreclosure during the depths of the recent recession, and court documents showed that the Turpins owed between $100,000 and $500,000.
Ivan Trahan, the bankruptcy lawyer, told The New York Times that the parents spoke often about their children, although the youngsters never visited his law offices.
“They spoke about them highly,” he said, adding that Mrs Turpin told him that the family loved Disneyland in Southern California and visited often.
“We remember them as a very nice couple. This is shocking.”
Sophia Grant, a child abuse pediatrician who is treating the 13 children, suggested they may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following their ordeal.
Mr Turpin and Mrs Turpin are being held at the Robert Presley Detention Centre in Riverside, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, unable to provide the $9 million bail each set by the judge. On Thursday the couple will appear in court in Riverside.
The children remain in hospital undergoing treatment and child services will now seek a court order to have oversight over the 13 children, including those over the age of 18.
Mark Uffer, the chief executive of Coronal Regional medical centre, said his facility was treating seven of the adult children.
"It's hard to think of them as adults, they are so small," Mr Uffer said, adding that they clearly malnourished but stable and very friendly.