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Investigation Into Care The Turpin Children Received After Escaping 'House of Horrors' Is Hampered By Problems
Hillary Potashner, a partner at the firm Larson LLP, said the independent inquiry into the care and services the Turpin children received has hit a series of legal and administrative obstacles.
Officials voiced frustrations about the progress of an ongoing investigation into the care and services the 13 Turpin children received after being removed in 2018 from their parents’ “house of horrors,” citing court-mandated confidentiality rules and other obstacles that have prevented them from getting the information they need.
The Riverside County Executive Office launched an independent inquiry in November, which is being led by former U.S. District Judge Stephen G. Larson, into the “care, services and placement” that the Turpin siblings received after they were removed from the home of David and Louise Turpin, according to a statement previously obtained by Oxygen.com from Riverside County Executive Officer Jeff Van Wagenen.
Larson’s team was expected to announce the findings of their investigation this week, but the report has been delayed by another two months after investigators said they continue to struggle to get necessary court and county records, ABC News reports.
“These records are vital to ensure that … the final report comprehensively addresses each area of inquiry,” Hillary Potashner, a partner at Larson LLP, told the Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “The process to require the records nonetheless remains slow moving.”
The Turpin children were rescued from their Perris, California home—where they had been tortured, abused and isolated for years by their parents—after 17-year-old Jordan Turpin bravely slipped from a window of the home on Jan. 14, 2018 and used a deactivated cell phone to call 911 .
“I was always terrified that if I called the cops or tried to escape, I would get caught, and then I knew I would die if I got caught,” Jordan recalled last year in an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer. “But at the end, when I saw my younger siblings, I knew that’s what I had to do.”
Police descended on the family’s home several hours later, taking David and Louise Turpin into custody. The couple’s arrest—and later conviction on 14 felony counts including torture, child cruelty and false imprisonment—meant the siblings had finally escaped their captors, but it wasn’t the happy ending many had envisioned for the family.
Questions swirled about the quality of care and services the 13 children received in the aftermath of the tragedy after an ABC News investigation uncovered disturbing living conditions for both the minor and adult children in the family.
Some of the underage siblings had been placed in a foster home where they had allegedly been abused, while the six adult children—who had never received a formal education—struggled to find stable housing or money for food. Although $600,000 that had been raised in private donations to provide care and services to the family, it’s unclear what became of the money, according to the report.
Van Wagenen launched the independent inquiry in November and tasked the group with completing two objectives: analyze the services provided to the six minor and seven adult Turpin children and assess the quality of care they'd been provided. They’ve also been tasked with taking a broader look at the overall child welfare and dependent adult system within the county.
On Tuesday, Potashner said their team has been hampered by “numerous confidentiality protections, and protective and sealing orders applicable to juvenile records, conservatorship court files and the Turpin sibling’s files in particular,” according to KABC.
She said Larson LLP has already made several court appearances and will continue to do so in an attempt to get an order to release the “critical and pertinent” case files.
“These ongoing court hearings have impacted our original timeline,” she said.
To date, she said the team has interviewed 85 people—including two of the Turpin siblings—and reviewed more than 2,600 pages of documentation.
Some of the supervisors on the board expressed frustration with the legal and administrative hurdles.
Riverside County 1st District Supervisor Kevin Jeffries called it the “most frustrating experience that I’ve (had) in my time on the board of supervisors.”
“Until the judge grants your firm access to those files, it is my opinion that the five of us will never know the truth,” he said, according to the local news outlet.
The care of the Turpin children is now being handled by a “multi-department, multi-disciplinary team,” while the investigation into what went wrong continues, ABC News reports.
"While we continue to cooperate with Larson LLP and look forward to receiving their report, the important work of the Board of Supervisors’ ad hoc committee continues," Van Wagenen said in a statement to Oxygen.com. "This county is committed to making the improvements needed in the system, which will result in better, safer outcomes for vulnerable children and adults in our community."
Oxygen.com also reached out to Larson LLP but did not receive an immediate response.