The Most Chilling Part of the Turpin Siblings' Hellish Existence Before Their Parents' Arrest
Jordan Turpin didn't know which part of the street was to walk.
"I was actually out and about because I didn't know about the sidewalks," said 21-year-old Diana Sawyer of ABC News in a July interview posted on 20/20. November aired about the day she escaped and called 911. "You should be on the sidewalk but I've never been out there."
"Outside" was outside her family's home in Perris, a town of about 79,000 in Southern California's Inland Empire, where Jordan and her 12 siblings were imprisoned by their own parents, some of them handcuffed to their beds and all of them starved and physical abuse as well Refusal of age-appropriate education, regular bathing, medical treatment and basically every other form of innate freedom.
And Jordan not only never strolled down the street like a normal teenager, "I literally never talked to anyone on the phone," she told Sawyer.
David and Louise Turpin were sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2019 after pleading guilty of torture and multiple charges of wrongful imprisonment, cruelty to adult loved ones and willful child abuse. Before being sentenced, everyone read prepared statements in court, Louise apologized for "everything I did to hurt my children" and David "sorry if I did anything to harm them".
There are "good intentions" behind his disciplinary approach, he said.
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In the Turpins' house in Perris, discipline could be to be locked in a dog house or cuffed to a bed. Police initially thought a dozen of the victims in the house they encountered that day in 2018 were minors; It found that seven of them were between 18 and 29 years old but were severely undersized due to malnutrition. The youngest child in the house was 2.
Riverside County Sheriff's Deputies initially thought 17-year-old Jordan was about 10 years old when they first saw her, according to their report.
But on the day their mother and father were convicted in April 2019, several of the Turpin children - including the eldest, who at the time wanted to stay Jane Doe 4 - made statements in court that not only showed their incredible resilience but also a tendency to defend David and Louise, a hallmark of long-term abuse. As the story unfolded through their interviews with investigators, some painted a picture of two initially well-meaning parents forced to make tough decisions.
A Facebook account verified by the Los Angeles Times had shown the entire Turpin brood on a trip to Disneyland posing for pictures that looked like any other family, and in one picture from 2016, all 13 children flanked their parents (and an Elvis Presley impersonator) during what appeared to be David and Louise's renewal ceremony.
"I want the court to know that our parents loved each other and each of their children," said a then 21-year-old sibling in a statement read by one of their lawyers. “I remember our mother sitting in her chair and crying and saying she didn't know what to do. She didn't want to use ropes or chains, but she was afraid that her children would consume too much sugar and caffeine. "
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They kept lemonade in the house because their father "needed it for work," the statement said, adding, "He fell asleep while driving and had an accident. They didn't know what else to do. I think our parents were afraid that if you asked for help they would lose their children. I think our parents did their best ... They believed that everything they did was to protect us. "
The second oldest brother Joshua Turpin, then 27, who said he lived in an apartment and studied software engineering, said in court: “I cannot describe in words what we went through in our childhood. Sometimes I still have nightmares about things that happened, like my siblings being chained or beaten. But this is the past and this is now. I love my parents and have forgiven them for many of the things they did to us. "
In the meantime he had learned to ride a bike and now he rode his bike everywhere, he said, even on long journeys, only "because I enjoy it so much".
On behalf of his sister Jessica, then 25, who is also said to be enrolled in college and said to live alone, Joshua read, “I love both of my parents so much. I'm glad they did because it made me that person who I am today. I just want to thank them for teaching me about God and the faith. I pray for them often. "
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That being said, adult sibling attorney Jack Osborn told reporters after the court that none of his clients objected to their parents' convictions, saying, "You understand the ramifications."
However, it's possible that the conditions police found the Turpins in could still be their lives if Jordan hadn't decided that January 14, 2018 was the day they crawled out the window in the dark would, clutching an old cellphone. and calls for help, their movements before dawn blurred by a surveillance camera across the street.
"I just ran away from home," she told the emergency services at the time. "And we have abusive parents." When asked how they were offensive, Jordan said, "They hit us. They like to throw us across the room. They tear our hair out. They tear our hair out. My two little sisters are now chained up." She didn't know which street she lived on or where she lived.
"I've never been outside," she explained. She approached a stop sign to find a street name for fear of being discovered. While Jordan was walking, she talked and told the dispatcher that sometimes she couldn't breathe in her house because it - and she and her siblings - were so dirty. Her last bath was "almost a year ago". She'd never seen a gun before, but she'd heard her parents talk about owning one.
About an hour and a half later, the sheriff's deputies arrived at the family home on Muir Woods Road for a social check, and within 30 minutes David and Louise were in custody - anyone who supposedly knew the Turpins couldn't believe it . The neighbors, who lived within sight of the house but didn't know the family at all, pained that something like this was happening among them.
FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images
The paternal children's grandparents James and Betty Turpin told ABC News from their West Virginia home that they hadn't seen David and Louise in four or five years, but they were "surprised and shocked." Ivan Trahan, an attorney who represented the couple on bankruptcy filings in 2011, told the Los Angeles Times that they appeared to be "very normal people who got into financial trouble" and that they "spoke highly of their children."
David was a full-time engineer when we enrolled, Trahan explained, but it is difficult for them to care for so many children and they are in debt.
The abuse had started long before she moved to Perris in 2014. And according to investigators, David and Louise had left their children alone for several years in a trailer in Rio Vista, Texas. The parents lived nearby but did not come to visit. Instead, they called the two oldest children and told them to discipline the others.
"David Turpin conditioned the children for years, decades, through physical agony and abuse, all of which were from Texas," said Kevin Beecham, assistant district attorney for Riverside County, in a June 2018 trial. "He conditioned them in unimaginable ways . ..If the parents weren't there, they still had to obey. "
When the representative who answered the question asked Jordan why, when her father was working and mother was often on the road, she and her siblings did not just leave the house, she simply replied: "Because we are afraid."
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A across the street neighbor, Kimberly Milligan, told the LA Times that she saw a woman with a baby when she was moving in, then the occasional sight of three pale looking children get in the car with their parents, but the children were never in the neighborhood. Another time she saw a couple of children, younger than teenagers, hanging Christmas lights on the house and saying hello, but they "looked at us like a child who wants to make himself invisible".
"I thought the children were home schooled," she said. "You know something is wrong, but you don't want to think badly of people."
David had registered the children's home schooling with the California Department of Education as a private, non-religious (changed from originally registered as religious) K-12 institution with six students enrolled. The Sandcastle Day School address was the same as the Perris house, with David listed as the principal.
Several neighbors also remembered seeing four children laying grass in the garden one night, a woman who looked like her mother watching them from an archway in front of the house.
"I thought it was strange, but I'm the type who doesn't want to get involved in anyone's business," said a neighbor.
Jordan and her older sister Jennifer Turpin (formerly Jane Doe 4, the oldest Turpin sibling) sat down with Sawyer last month for her first interview since escaping the House of Secrets. But unfortunately, it is not the only apartment of this type or the only situation where children are terrorized by the people they can trust the most.
In September 2018, Susan von Zabern, longtime director of Riverside County's Department of Public Social Services, resigned due to severe criticism of the work of her department and two negligent investigations into negligent child abuse in other cases.
In the course of the Turpin discovery, von Zabern had said that Jordan's emergency call was "the first opportunity to intervene".
Jordan remembered on the 8th / 8th of her 5:49 am when she climbed out the window: "That was my only chance. At least if something happened to me, at least I died trying."
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"I think it was that we got so close to death so often," that she was finally given the courage to run, she explained. "I wanted to help everyone."
Jordan remembered being very worried that the assistant, who answered her call about 22 minutes later, would not believe her. And first - as seen in his 20/20 body cam footage - he asks if her parents knew she was away and if she was taking any medication. Pills, he clarified when she said she didn't know what drugs were. The answer was no, as far as she knew she had never taken a pill.
Riverside County's Assistant Sheriff Anthony Colace was nearing the end of his night shift, thinking the call would be a routine return-of-runaway situation.
But Jordan had pictures of her chained sisters on her phone. He called for help on the radio and soon saw the whole haunting scene with his own eyes.
DAMIAN DOVARGANES / AFP via Getty Images
"It seemed the mother was confused about why we were in the residence," Riverside County Sheriff's Captain Greg Fellows told reporters after the arrests.
Mark Uffer, executive director of the Corona Regional Medical Center, who said that five female and two male adult siblings from the house were being treated at his hospital, described the patients as "very friendly" and "very cooperative, and I very much believe they do Life will come back better for them after this event. "
Uffer also noted that in all of his health care years he had never seen anything like what happened in the Turpin house.
Jennifer, now 33, told Sawyer that the first time she felt truly free was listening to music in the hospital and getting up to dance.
She and Jordan and another sister went to a park for the first time after that, and Jordan remembered thinking, "How could the sky be better than that?"
And no matter what happens to them, Jennifer said, "Nothing will ever be this bad. Nothing will be as bad as 29 years in the only word I know to call it hell."
Meanwhile, research is being conducted into how the siblings in Riverside County fared after their parents were arrested, released from the foster family and given temporary housing through a school program. More than $ 600,000 in donations came in a few years ago when people from the plight of the Turpin children and countless offerings of free services, such as z, were unable to access most of the funds.
"I had to pass these referrals on to child protection workers and the hospital," Riverside County's director of victim services Melissa Donaldson told ABC News to David Scott of the free care offerings. "And none of them were used." (County officials, citing court-ordered privacy and sealed records, refused to explain to ABC News how the fund worked or how decisions were made regarding caring for the siblings.)
The focus is now again on the district's social services, which are to be set up to protect the most vulnerable.
Prosecutor Mike Hestrin, who prosecuted her parents, acknowledged the loopholes in the system and said to Sawyer, "This is inconceivable to me - that we could have the worst case of child abuse I have ever seen and then we wouldn't be able to bring them together to meet their basic needs. "
He added, "If we can't take care of the Turpin victims, how do we stand a chance of taking care of anyone?"
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