‘The only phrase I can think of to describe it is torment,’ the Turpin sisters said of their family’s haunted mansion.
Jordan Turpin was 17 years old when she crawled out of a window of her family’s house, seeking to save her 12 siblings’ lives.
She had been plotting her escape for two years, after decades of horrible mental and physical abuse by her parents in their Perris, California home. Jordan hurried outside with nothing except an old cellphone she discovered in the home and dialled 911.
Jordan, now 21, told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview Friday, “I was always frightened that if I contacted the authorities or attempted to flee, I would be caught, and then I knew I would die if I was found.” “But, in the end, when I saw all of my younger siblings, I realised I had to do it.”
She informed officers during the terrifying 911 call that the family’s home smelled so horrible that she couldn’t breathe and that she and her siblings may need to go to the hospital.
She instantly gave the first police officer her phone, which was full of images and videos she had taken of herself and her siblings to verify the abuse.
Her daring escape in January 2018 led to the discovery of her siblings and exposed one of the “worst, most severe child abuse cases” ever seen, according to Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin.
Some of the siblings, who varied in age from 2 to 29, were discovered chained and padlocked to their beds. A handful of the adults seemed to be young teens due to their malnutrition.
Jordan sat in the back of a police cruiser that morning, watching as her parents, David and Louise Turpin, were taken into custody. After pleading guilty to 14 counts of torture, adult abuse, child endangerment, false detention, and other offences, the two were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Their first glimmers of liberation
When authorities arrived at the Turpin house to do a welfare check, it didn’t take long for them to realise the gravity of the children’s harrowing situation.
According to ABC News’ “Escape From A House Of Horror,” they found a residence reeking of human waste, decomposing rubbish, and mouldy food, with trash covering every surface. The youngsters were discovered sitting calmly in dirty beds, languid, thin, caked in mud, and with bruises on their arms.
One youngster was discovered with his wrist and ankle shackled to the bedpost, where he had remained for weeks. The thick shackles put on the youngsters are seen on bodycam video from that day.
‘The only phrase I can think of to describe it is torment,’ says the narrator “Jennifer Turpin, the oldest of the children, expressed her thoughts.
The 13 Turpin children were transferred to a hospital, where they were treated for a variety of ailments by nurses and physicians. Some were so malnourished that they could scarcely walk, while others had cardiac problems as a result of a lack of nutrition. According to ABC, one preteen’s arm was the size of a 4.5-month-old infant.
The children were illiterate and had no knowledge of the outside world.
Neighbors leave notes for the Turpin children on the front door of David and Louise Turpin’s house, where the couple was arrested for allegedly keeping 13 children prisoner.
Hestrin added that in addition to acute caloric starvation and muscular loss, some of the participants suffered cognitive impairment and “neuropathy,” or nerve damage, as a consequence of the harsh and protracted physical abuse.
Jennifer Turpin began her celebrations by dancing in the centre of her hospital ward.
“I got up because music was playing,” Jennifer, now 33, told Sawyer. “I danced after making sure there was a tiny bit of a floor cleaned away.”
A thrilling excursion to a playground was also included.
“I was giddy with anticipation because I could smell the grass and the breeze. ‘How could paradise be any greater than this?’ I wondered.” Jordan remarked. “Oh my god, this is so free, like, this is life,” says the narrator.
“At the very least, I tried if anything bad occurred to me.”
According to investigators, the parents starved their 13 children by shackling them with padlocks and teasing them with pies placed on their kitchen counter. They hadn’t seen a doctor in almost four years, and none of them had ever gone to the dentist.
The girls informed Sawyer that their entire diet consisted of peanut butter sandwiches. They were only offered frozen items on rare occasions. They were severely punished if they were still hungry and were found attempting to eat anything else.
The youngsters were sometimes so hungry that they ate ketchup packets and ice cubes.
“It begs the question, ‘How can any sane person do this?’ when you have parents torturing their children to this extent, and they’re their own flesh and blood.” On the ABC News special, Hestrin remarked. “And the reality is that even rational individuals perform bad deeds on a regular basis.”
Jordan said she overheard her dad stating they were transferring the family to Oklahoma the day before she escaped. Jordan said that if they had relocated, there was a “good probability” that some of them would have perished.
She said, “That was my only chance.” “I believe it was our many near-death experiences. If anything were to happen to me, at the very least I would have tried.”
Jordan remembered the first time she imagined what her life might be like if she wasn’t confined. She claims it was because of Justin Bieber, whose songs and interviews resonated to her.
While “As Long As You Love Me,” “Boyfriend,” and “Baby” are among her favourite Justin Bieber songs, it wasn’t only his music that prompted her to take action.
“I began to realise there’s another world out there,” Jordan said.
She liked watching his interviews because she learned new terms from him and realised how much they had in common. Her mother, on the other hand, strangled her after she was found surreptitiously viewing a Justin Bieber video.
Even if it is free, it is nonetheless ignored.
Despite having survived a life that most people could never comprehend, the Turpin children aren’t fully protected.
A couple of the Turpin children were put with a foster family that was arrested and accused with assaulting many children in their care, including at least one Turpin kid, according to ABC.
Another Turpin kid, now an adult, was put in a foster home where her foster parent explained why her parents had her chained up.
“They felt deceived,” Melissa Donaldson, Riverside County’s Director of Victim Services, told the programme. “Did we ever see children being unable to find a secure place to live or stay? Yes. Was there ever a moment when they didn’t have enough food? They didn’t do it.”
“It has to be fixed. You’d think now is the time to get our act together and do all we can, but that wasn’t the case “she went on.
Some of the Turpin kids didn’t have access to housing at times, so they depended on couch surfing for refuge, according to Donaldson, who added that they often resorted to churches for food.
“Right now, I don’t have a method to obtain food,” Jordan said. According to ABC, it started when she was removed from the extended foster care system in July without any assistance with food, healthcare, or lodging.
“Well, my neighbourhood isn’t the greatest,” Jennifer said.
Despite collecting $600,000 from strangers throughout the nation, the Turpin children have had problems accessing the funds, and county authorities have refused to answer questions about why, citing court-ordered confidentiality, according to ABC.
“They are living in filth. They live in a gang-infested area. There is money available for their schooling, but they are unable to get it “Hestrin said.
“They’ve been victimised by the system again,” he continued. “It’s incomprehensible to me that we could have the worst instance of child abuse I’ve ever seen, maybe one of the worst in California history, and then not be able to pull it together to provide them with fundamental needs, basic requirements.”