The abuse allegedly inflicted by David and Louise Turpin on their 13 kids in a suburban California house of horrors put an abrupt, unexpected spin on the story the children’s aunt had long intended to write about her own life.
“Louis had been my protector,” Elizabeth Flores, Louise’s younger sister, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “This is not the same Louise I knew, that I loved.”
With her book Sisters of Secrets, due out Tuesday, Flores now looks back through a different lens at her turbulent upbringing with Louise, examining how the sibling she admired growing up in Princeton, West Virginia, could have become a monster suspected of inflicting such misery on her own kids.
Authorities allege that Louise, 49, and David, 56, held most of their children captive and subject to starvation and beatings in an intensifying cycle of abuse over years.
Following the Jan. 14 escape of their 17-year-old daughter from the family’s Perris home, both parents were charged with 12 counts of torture, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, six counts of child abuse and 12 counts of false imprisonment. (More criminal charges have followed.)
Only the youngest child was somewhat spared, according to prosecutors.
David and Louise have pleaded not guilty, with one of their attorneys noting that they are presumed innocent until convicted.
Though their relationship frayed in the years after Louise met David as a teenage girl, marrying him at 16, Flores says that “growing up, Louise and I were very, very close.”
They were drawn together in what Flores describes as an abusive childhood setting. As their parents, both now deceased, broke out in fights, “Louise would cover my ears with her hands really tight and put my eyes in her chest and cover me — protect me from hearing and seeing it,” she says.
Eager to share the story of her own survival, Flores began writing her book before learning about the horrific claims made against her sister and her brother-in-law.
Flores hopes that by sharing details of the upbringing she and Louise shared, she might somehow illuminate the evolution of the woman facing judgment for what authorities have called “depraved conduct.”
“My whole world fell apart, because to me I couldn’t imagine being without Louise,” Flores says of the allegations. “It has turned my world upside down.”