PERRIS, California -- The couple accused of shackling their 13 children in filthy conditions in a Perris, California, home were deeply religious and believed God had called on them to have so many kids, according to the grandparents of the children.
David and Louise Turpin have been accused of keeping their 13 children, who range in ages from 2 to 29, locked up in the home in filthy, dark conditions.
Neighbors described the children as appearing pale and malnourished. Authorities said many of them appeared far younger than their actual age because of poor nutrition.
The parents of David Turpin told ABC News that they are "surprised and shocked" at the allegations against their son and daughter-in-law.
James and Betty Turpin, who live in West Virginia, said David and Louise had so many children because "God called on them."
They were given "very strict homeschooling," and would memorize long passages in the Bible, the grandparents said. Some children tried to memorize it in its entirety.
While David and Louise were in the Pentecostal faith, they did not have a church in the area and David's parents knew of no friends that the couple had.
The last time the grandparents visited California about four or five years ago, they thought the children seemed thin but they appeared to be a "happy family," they said.
They said David Turpin was a computer engineer who had graduated from Virginia Tech and had previously worked for General Dynamics in Texas.
Neighbors say they rarely saw children outside the home and they were stunned to hear that 13 were living inside.
Some neighbors 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.
"They were very pale-skinned, almost like they'd never seen the sun," said one woman who lives in the neighborhood. "It was mostly girls. Kind of small-framed, kind of tiny. Almost looked a little malnutritioned."
She said the couple mostly kept to themselves and she never tried to pry.
"I respected their privacy," she said. "But now it just breaks my heart. It makes me want to cry."
* More local news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Grandparents say 'God called' on California couple to have so many children