The 13 siblings rescued from a California ‘House of Horrors’ three years ago have been failed miserably by a social services system that was supposed to help them transition to new lives, according to a new report.
Then aged from two to 29, the siblings lived their lives in horribly abusive conditions that included being locked in their home for years, shackled to beds and starved by their parents before they staged a daring escape to contact police in 2018.
Now, Riverside County has hired a private law firm to look into allegations the seven adult and six minor children in the Turpin family did not get basic services they needed after they were freed from their parents’ prison-like home, ABC News reported on Friday.
A conservatorship, like the one Britney Spears was recently freed from, is allegedly preventing even the adult Turpins from accessing some $600,000 in donated funds, leaving them living in squalor and on the brink of homelessness.
There also is a criminal investigation of a foster family suspected of mistreating several children, including one of the Turpins, ABC reported. A lawyer for that family denied the allegations.
Jennifer (left) and Jordan (right) Turpin spoke out for the first time about their horror ordeal. Whistleblowers say the abused children have been
Then aged from two to 29, the siblings lived their lives in horribly abusive conditions that included being locked in their home for years, shackled to beds and starved by their parents
Jordan staged a daring escape from the family home (above) in 2018, contacting police
Some of the children reported they ‘felt betrayed’ by local officials’ handling of their cases, said Melissa Donaldson, Riverside County’s director of victim services.
Donaldson said there were times when the children did not have a safe place to stay or enough food, with the adult children thrust into ‘couch surfing’ at times and prevented from accessing their $600,000 trust by a court-appointed conservator.
Joshua Turpin, 29, told the network that the conservator in the public guardian’s office had denied his request to use some of the funds to buy a bike, even though he had no other form of transportation.
Donaldson cried as she described how the children, who had little contact with the outside world while being held like prisoners by their parents, David and Louise Turpin, were at times left on their own to try to work through a complicated bureaucracy.
‘When the case first broke, I obviously got thousands of offers of help … dentists and doctors and people saying, ‘I will serve these kids pro bono. Please, send them my way,” she said.
‘I had to pass on those referrals to the Child Protective Services workers and the hospital. And none of them were utilized,’ she said.
Melissa Donaldson, Riverside County’s director of victim services, slammed local officials for their handling of the case, saying the children ‘feel betrayed’
‘They have been victimized again by the system,’ said Riverside Country District Attorney Mike Hestrin. ‘And that is unimaginable to me’
The social worker said that the adult Turpin children were now living in one of the most dangerous, crime-ridden parts of the county, and that one of them had been assaulted.
‘They all lacked that sixth sense of fear. They had none of that, and they were cast right into the world in a very unsafe violent inner-city area,’ said Wade Walsvick, the lead district attorney’s investigator on the case.
‘There are resources for them that they can’t access. They’re living in squalor. They’re living in a crime ridden neighborhoods. There’s money for them for their education. They can’t access it,’ said Riverside Country District Attorney Mike Hestrin.
‘They have been victimized again by the system,’ said Hestrin. ‘And that is unimaginable to me, that we could have the very worst case of child abuse that I’ve ever seen, maybe one of the worst in California history, and that we would then not be able to get it together to give them basic needs, basic necessities,’ he said.
Donaldson said she spoke out ‘because we have to fix’ the system.
The shocking abuse in the Turpin home went unnoticed in the community of Perris, about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles, until then-17-year-old Jordan Turpin escaped from the house and called police.
Jordan and one of her sisters gave their first media interview for a segment on Friday’s episode of ABC’s 20/20.
Jennifer and Jordan Turpin (second from left) spoke to Diane Sawyer about their rescue. The full interview is set to air on Friday
Jordan was 17 when she called police to her California home in 2018. It was the first time she had ever spoken on a phone or to someone outside her family
Deputies testified that the children said they were only allowed to shower once a year
Now 21, Jordan recalled how she could barely press the buttons for 911 after escaping the house. She had never spoken to anybody before on the phone, she said, and was shaking.
Seeing her siblings suffering, she said she felt like she had to do something.
‘I had to make sure that if I left we wouldn´t go back, and we would get the help we needed,’ she said in a tearful interview. ‘Because if we went back, there´s no way I would be sitting here right now.’
When she escaped, Jordan told a sheriff’s deputy that her sisters and brothers, who ranged in age from two to 29, had been starved, chained to beds and forced to live in squalor.
The children slept during the day, were active a few hours at night and had minimal education.
Body-worn camera footage from the deputy who rescued the siblings shows him talking to Jordan, who nervously says she’s never talked to anyone outside the home.
When the deputy asked if she was taking any medication, Jordan said she didn´t know what that word meant.
When the 13 siblings were rescued, all but the 2-year-old were severely underweight and hadn’t bathed for months.
Investigators concluded the youngest child was the only one not abused by their parents, who have since been sentenced to life in prison.
David (left) and Louise Turpin (right) pleaded guilty to 14 counts of torture and other abuse in 2019 and were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. They are eligible for parole in 22 years
David and Louise ate fast food in front of their children, who were only allowed one meal per day at one point. They would chain the siblings to filthy beds if they tried to steal food
In the days after their release, the adult and minor children were taken to hospitals for treatment. Donations and support poured in from around the world.
But since that time, the adult siblings have faced challenges accessing social services and even money that was donated for their care. The money was placed in a trust controlled by a court-appointed public guardian.
Joshua Turpin, 29, told ABC News he couldn’t access funds to cover transportation needs and when he asked for help from the county’s deputy public guardian assigned to his case, ‘she would just tell me, `Just go Google it.´’
‘I called the public guardian´s office and she refused to let me request for a bike,’ he said.
In a statement, Riverside County Executive Officer Jeff Van Waganen said his office has hired a law firm run by former federal Judge Stephen G. Larson to analyze the services provided and the quality of care they received.
A report is due by the end of March.
‘The County of Riverside is committed to conducting a thorough and transparent review of the services provided to the Turpin siblings and to improve and strengthen the County´s child welfare and dependent adult systems,’ the statement said.
Dr. Matthew Chang, who heads the county’s public guardian office, said he welcomed the investigation into the care of the siblings.
Jordan crawled out of a window and called the police using a cell phone in January 2018. She said she walked on the street because she didn’t know about the sidewalks
The siblings, ranging in age from two to 29 years old, were freed from the home in January 2018 after a 17-year-old Jordan crawled through a window and called 911.
They were regularly beaten, starved and strangled by their parents. The house was covered in filth and the stench of human waste was said to be overwhelming.
Jennifer confirmed that the kids would often be chained up for months.
The parents’ abuse and neglect was so ‘severe, pervasive, [and] prolonged’ that it stunted their children’s growth, led to muscle wasting and left two of their daughters unable to bear children.
Jordan’s call to police lasted for 20 minutes because the girl struggled to work out her address because she had not been outside alone before.
WHERE ARE THE TURPIN CHILDREN NOW? THE CASE THAT SHOCKED THE NATION
Since the 13 Turpin children were rescued from their parents horror house in January 2018, they have been actively working to take back their lives.
‘They’re all happy,’ Deputy District Attorney Kevin Beecham, who prosecuted the Turpin case, told People in April 2020. ‘They are moving on with their lives.’
His interview revealed the siblings still live in Southern California and remain close to each other, regularly getting together.
‘They still meet with each other, all 13 of them, so they’ll meet somewhere kind of discreet,’ he shared.
Beecham shared that the six youngest children had been adopted and, since they had experienced fewer years of abuse due to their ages, were able to quickly adjust to their new lives.
One of the older siblings has earned a college degree.
Others are in school, living on their own and working jobs.
‘Some of them are living independently, living in their own apartment, and have jobs and are going to school. Some volunteer in the community. They go to church,’ Beecham explained.
A few of the siblings, at the time of the interview, were still living in group homes as they received therapy and counseling.
Two of the Turpin sisters spoke out to Diane Sawyer, in an interview airing on November 19, revealing that they were moving forward with their lives.
‘My parents took my whole life from me, but now I am taking my life back,’ one sister told Sawyer.
The other described her new life as being ‘free.’
Following David and Louise’s arrests in January 2018, horrific details began to emerge of the extent of torture, abuse and neglect that the children.
Deputies testified that the children said they were only allowed to shower once a year.
They were mainly kept in their rooms except for meals, which had been reduced from three to one per day, a combination of lunch and dinner.
For years, the siblings’ diet consisted of nothing but two slices of bread with peanut butter or bologna. The couple were also accused of taunting their children with pies and other food that they were forbidden to eat.
The Turpin parents chowed down on fast food in front of them, chaining the children to filthy beds if they tried to steal food.
‘They still can’t look at peanut butter or bologna,’ Deputy District Attorney Kevin Beecham told People magazine last year.
‘I made the mistake of mentioning peanut butter during one of our meet-and-greets, and one of the girls almost threw up. And when they’re at the grocery store, they can’t look at peanut butter. They can’t even go down the aisle where there’s peanut butter.’
The Turpin offspring weren’t allowed to play like normal children and were deprived of things other kids had, including toys and games.
Sawyer also spoke with Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, who was involved with the case. He says it is one he will never forget.
‘It stopped me dead in my tracks,’ he said. ‘There are cases that stick with you, that haunt you.’
David and Louise pleaded guilty to 14 counts of torture and other abuse in 2019 and were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
They are both eligible for parole in 22 years.
The 13 siblings remained out of the public eye as their parents’ case unfolded in court and they learned to adapt to normal life outside the confines of the house of horrors.
Beecham, who prosecuted the Turpin case, told People magazine that all of the siblings ‘are happy.’
‘They are moving on with their lives,’ he added.
At that time, one sibling had graduated college, while several others had jobs or were going to school.
‘Some of them are living independently, living in their own apartment, and have jobs and are going to school. Some volunteer in the community. They go to church,’ he shared.
He also noted that the siblings see each other regularly.
‘They still meet with each other, all 13 of them, so they’ll meet somewhere kind of discreet,’ he said.
Several of the siblings have changed their names to rid themselves of the stigma of being a victim in the high-profile case.
‘It would be difficult for them to carry that name, that label of being a victim, forever,’ Beecham said.
In 2019, Louise’s sister Elizabeth Flores told Radar Online that Louise cried when they discussed the children but ‘didn’t want to admit to anything’ and is in ‘denial.’
‘We talked about the baby. She told me how she would turn 3 in two weeks and she started to cry because she was upset she wouldn’t be there,’ Elizabeth said.
The full 20/20 special Escape From A House Of Horror can be seen on Hulu.