When her sister, Louise Turpin, and Turpin’s husband, David, were charged over the prolonged and systematic abuse of their 13 children, Elizabeth Flores struggled to comprehend it. “I was in shock, pure shock,” Flores tells WHO. “My whole world fell apart.”
Four months ago, in the early morning hours of Jan. 14 an emaciated 17-year-old girl escaped out of the window of the house at 160 Muir Woods Road, in Perris, California, and told police about the horror that was occurring inside: how she and her 12 siblings were held captive and subject to starvation and beatings at the hands of their parents, David and Louise Turpin.
The case made international headlines as police charged David, 56, and Louise, 49, with 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse and 12 counts of false imprisonment. (Both have pleaded not guilty.)
Now Flores is sharing dark secrets of her own, opening up about the troubled childhood she and Louise shared and what she later witnessed inside her sister and David Turpin’s house of horrors.
In her book Sisters of Secrets, Flores examines how the older sister who was so protective of her when they were growing up could have become capable of inflicting such misery on her own children.
“It’s just hard to fathom,” says Flores. “You don’t want to believe that your sister would torture anybody.”
For most of their childhood, Flores says, Louise was “a good student” who was “loving, soft-spoken and sweet.”
But things changed when a then-15-year-old Louise began dating David, 22, whom she met at church.
In 1985, posing as her father, David checked Louise out of high school, and the two ran away together. Her frantic parents called police and the couple were apprehended in Texas.
But after Louise and David insisted they would just run away again, her parents gave written permission for the 16-year-old to marry David. Soon after they started their family, and Louise began pulling away from her two younger sisters and her parents.
Flores says Louise, who had grown up attending church, began practising witchcraft after her marriage, amassing a trove of Satanic books and a Ouija board.
“People have this misconception that David and Louise were raising their kids up in this Christian home and then all of a sudden they were torturing them,” says Flores. “That’s not true.”
During a summer break when Flores was 20, she lived with David and Louise and several of their young children in Fort Worth.
She remembers being puzzled by some of her sister’s rules—the children had to ask for permission to use the bathroom and weren’t allowed to talk to Flores if their mother wasn’t around—but didn’t notice any obvious signs of abuse.
“I would ask if I could play with them, and she would tell me no and shut them in their rooms,” says Flores. “She said it was to protect them from me, that she didn’t want my ‘ways rubbing off on them.’”
While not allowed to discuss the case pending against her sister and brother-in-law, Flores, who has seven children with husband Jonathan, says she hopes sharing details of Louise’s past will somehow shed light on what happened to the family. Says Flores: “This is not the same Louise I knew, that I loved.”
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This article originally appeared on WHO.