The sister of a Southern California mother accused of holding her 13 children captive in what authorities called a "torture chamber" alleges a family member sexually abused her, her siblings and their mother over several years when they were children.
Teresa Robinette revealed what she called a "dark family secret" in an interview Monday on “Megan Kelly Today.”
“It’s always been a big secret in our family,” Robinette said. “The adults in our family always protected him because he was family and there was so much that went on with that … but it was always this dark family secret that he did this.”
She alleges the male family member also abused their cousins, but claims he was never held accountable.
The allegation comes days after prosecutors announced the children’s father, 56-year-old David Turpin, was charged with one count of a lewd act on a child. Turpin and his wife, 49-year-old Louise Turpin, are jailed on charges of torture, abuse of a dependent adult, child abuse or neglect and false imprisonment.
Prosecutors said the siblings, ranging in age from 2 to 29, suffered years of "severe" abuse. They were initially bound with ropes, but when the children figured out how to escape from such bondage, the couple switched to chains and padlocks, just one of many forms of punishment, the district attorney said.
Authorities discovered the malnourished children, some shackled to furniture, after a 17-year-old girl escaped the home through a window and called 911 to report the abuse. The couples' children — ages 2 to 29 — were so emaciated the older ones still looked like children and some had cognitive impairment. Authorities thought the 17-year-old daughter who called 911 was only 10 when they found her.
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Robbinette told Kelly she hasn’t spoken to her nieces and nephews in several years and last saw them "seven or eight years ago" via video chat.
Asked whether she saw signs of developmental delays with the children, Robinette said “no.”
“I always even said I thought those children were very book smart,” Robinette said. “But I was worried that because they were home schooled and because they didn’t hold a conversation well, I was always concerned that they weren’t going to be socially developed.”
She also claimed that Louise Turpin had a sexual encounter with a stranger she met online and that David Turpin consented to the affair. According to Robinette, as Louise was approaching her 40th birthday, the couple stopped attending church and were “experimenting with different religions.”
They also began going out to bars and “sowing those wild oats” that they felt they missed out on because the couple married young and began having children right away, she said.
“The very weird thing to me, that I would never do, is she told me her and David met a man online from Huntsville, Alabama, and that they were on their way to meet him,” Robinette said. “She was going to sleep with him, and David was OK with it. I told her I thought it was a mistake. But I know that she met this man at a motel and slept with him in Alabama.”
A year later, Robinette said the couple returned to the hotel, spending the night in the same room on the same bed.
Robinette told Kelly she hopes her 13 nieces and nephews can one day lead a "happy and normal" existence.
"I hope to put my arm around them and tell them they have a family that is not deranged," she said.
As for her sister and brother-in-law, Robinette said "Louise and David are dead to me."