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Turpin Children’s Ordeal Didn’t End After Their Parent’s Arrest, And It’s Prompted A Fresh Investigation
"The public deserves to know what their government did and didn't do, and how we failed these victims," Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said of how the Turpin children were cared for in the aftermath of the arrest of their parents, David and Louise Turpin.
After escaping years of horrific abuse and starvation at the hands of their parents, a new investigation reveals the Turpin children have faced a new set of challenges after their dramatic escape from captivity.
For years, the 13 Turpin children were hidden away from society, kept locked up in cages and chains, starved and beaten for even the most minor infraction by their parents David and Louise Turpin—but their life in what has now been dubbed the “House of Horrors” ended when 17-year-old Jordan Turpin slipped out of the window of their California home on Jan. 14, 2018 and called 911 using a deactivated cell phone.
She was so terrified and her hands began shaking so intensely, it was difficult for her to dial 911, she told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in Friday’s episode of “20/20.”
“My whole body was shaking,” Jordan recalled through tears.
Minutes later Jordan—who had never talked to a stranger outside her home before—told the deputy who had arrived at the scene that two of her little sisters were chained up inside their home and described living in filth and being choked by her parents during years of abuse.
Within hours, deputies descended on the Turpin family home, arresting David and Louise and rescuing the remaining children inside.
David and Louise were later convicted on 14 felony counts, including child cruelty, torture and false imprisonment and were sentenced to 25 years to life behind bars—but according to Sawyer’s new report, the case didn’t have the fairy tale ending most had hoped for.
Seven of the children, who were minors at the time of their parents’ arrest, were placed in foster homes—including one in which the children allegedly faced new abuse.
The six adult children, who had never received an education and had lived isolated away from everyday society, were placed in the care of a court-appointed public guardian to manage their healthcare, nutrition, housing and safety.
Yet the Turpin children said accessing care or services has been incredibly difficult. One of their 29-year-old brothers reported being denied a bike to use for transportation or being taught how to use the public transportation system.
He claimed when asking his public guardian for help she often told him to “Just go Google it.”
Today, many of the siblings live in crime-ridden neighborhoods, have no stable housing and still struggle to find money for food.
Although $600,000 had been raised through private donations to provide care and services to the children in the aftermath of the tragedy, it’s unclear what happened to that money or how it’s been distributed, according to the new report.
"The public deserves to know what their government did and didn't do, and how we failed these victims," Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin told “20/20.” "[It's] 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."
Investigative reporter David Scott has tried to account for the money, but continually hit road blocks as part of his probe for the news outlet.
“Most of the money went into an official trust overseen by the court and hidden from public oversight,” he said. “County officials refused to tell us how much has been spent or on what, but the Turpin [children] we spoke to said those funds are hard to access.”
In a statement to ABC News, Riverside County Executive Officer Jeff Van Wagenen has admitted there “have been instances in which those we seek to protect have been harmed” and announced the county had retained the services of the law firm Larson LLP to launch an independent investigation into how the siblings were treated in the aftermath of their escape.
The law firm “will be seeking” to speak to the Turpin children, along with current employees and former county employees in the probe which is expected to continue until March.
County officials say they’ve instructed the law firm to “take all reasonable steps consistent with best practices in conducting its investigation” as they delve into the allegations made by the news outlet and the Turpin children.
Oxygen.com reached out to the Van Wagenen’s office and Larson LLP but did not receive an immediate response.
Jaycee Dugard, an outspoken victim’s activist who spent 18 years in captivity herself after being kidnapped by Phillip Garrido, has also set up a new fund to support the Turpin children through The JAYC Foundation.
“This is why the JAYC Foundation exists,” she wrote in a message on the foundation’s website. “It is for families like the Turpin siblings that have so little but need so much. The resources that my family and I received in our time of need changed our lives. The generosity that strangers showed us was astounding. Now it’s our turn to pay it forward and to ask you to help this amazing family.”
For more on the case, watch Oxygen's "The Turpin 13: Family Secrets Exposed."