An open window in January 2018 proved to be the way to freedom for one of the 13 Turpin children. Allegedly, their callously cruel parents had locked them away in their California home and abused them for years. But once the alerted cops came to free the dozen other kids – and cage their “carers” – the victims found that they now had control over their lives for the first time.
According to the Californian authorities, before that January day, the Turpin children had led nightmarish lives in Perris, CA. “What started out as neglect became severe, pervasive, prolonged child abuse,” claimed Mike Hestrin, Riverside County District Attorney, at a press conference later that month.
Reportedly, parents Louise and David Turpin homeschooled their children, who ranged in age from two to 29 years old. But prosecutors maintained that this was just a method they used to isolate their brood from the outside world. Hestrin alleged that homeschool also allowed the mom and dad to mask the horrors happening behind closed doors.
The Turpins are said to have physically and emotionally abused their children, including starving them by withholding food. Sometimes, the parents would shackle the youngsters to their beds and leave them there for weeks. Hestrin even alleged that the kids were only permitted to shower once a year.
But all of that would mercifully come to an end when the Turpins’ 17-year-old daughter executed an escape plan. By January 14, 2018, the teenager had been formulating her strategy for more than two years. She fled through an unlocked window and called 911 with an old cellphone that she had found inside the residence.
And the police officers who responded to the call allegedly saw the evidence of the parental abuse and neglect with their own eyes. They claimed that some of the kids had been chained to furniture in the dangerously dirty house. The cops also said that they could easily see how malnourished the Turpin offspring were. Reportedly, the eldest child weighed only 82 pounds at the time of his parents’ arrest.
Louise and David Turpin faced more than 40 charges when they were arraigned later in January. These ranged from child abuse and neglect to false imprisonment and torture. The couple pled not guilty to all counts, and the judge set their bail at $12 million a piece. The parents, aged 49 and 56 respectively, could spend the rest of their lives in jail if convicted.
While their parents faced lengthy imprisonment, the Turpin offspring experienced freedom for the first time. Of course, they were not in a position to get on with their own lives right away. All 13 – seven of adult age and six minors – went to nearby hospitals after their removal from the Perris address.
Indeed, the seven elder Turpins attended the Corona Regional Medical Center, while the six younger siblings received treatment elsewhere. But they all kept in touch with one another via Skype. This online activity represented a huge change, since journaling was the only activity the kids were allowed to do in their rooms at home.
In fact, Skype was just one facet of the freedoms the Turpin children would experience as part of life outside of confinement. The older members of the brood were able to play with iPads, sample new foods and watch movies, including the Star Wars and Harry Potter series.
The Corona hospital’s nurses worked with Karen Spiegel, Mayor of Corona, in the Turpin’s rehabilitation. And Spiegel described the elder offspring as “warm and loving” to People magazine in February 2018. The mayor added, “They are progressing well and looking into the future, seeing where their lives could go, and they have the support system.”
And the support system the official referred to extended far beyond the hospital. While undergoing treatment, the Turpins received cards, gifts, and money from thousands of people who were appalled at their story. In addition, acclaimed American cellist Yo-Yo Ma even gave them a private concert.
Caleb Mason, one of the children’s attorneys, was also interviewed by People magazine. “It is quite extraordinary for them to have some freedom,” the legal representative said. “For the first time, [they can] experience life outside the type of constraints they had experienced.”
Nevertheless, their hospital stay was just the beginning of that freedom. On March 15, 2018, the elder offspring took their leave of the treatment center. And as Mark Uffer, CEO of the Corona Regional Medical Center, told People, “Tears were flowing, both for the staff and the Turpin children.”
Uffer continued, “We’re hopeful they can now learn a lot of life skills, from shopping for groceries to cooking.” He went on to make an observation, “For all the things that have allegedly been done to them, they still have the capacity to love and trust people who have been good to them. Their spirit has not been crushed.”
With that, the seven eldest Turpins moved into their new home, a remote safe-house property out in the California countryside. Also moving in were the family’s dogs, which had presumably been rescued from what the press had dubbed “the house of horror” in Perris.
According to Jack Osborn, another of the sibling’s attorneys who spoke to ABC News, the older Turpins felt free to dabble in even more new activities. Now they had their very own place, they whipped up Mexican recipes, built ice cream sundaes and began picking citrus fruit.
Meanwhile, thankfully, their six younger brothers and sisters also found soft places to land. Unfortunately, no one family could be found to accommodate all of the half-dozen children. Consequently, the two youngest live in one Riverside County location, while the other four have a different local address.
As for the future, the elder Turpins reportedly all have a few goals in mind. “The thing they want more than anything else is an education,” Attorney Mason told People magazine. “They have the same spectrum of hopes and dreams and aspirations as any other group of young adults.”
And, while they have experienced an awful start to life that few can even imagine, Mason believed the Turpin children would adjust well to their freedom. “It is going to take some time,” he admitted, “But I think they are very resilient and they are going to ultimately be fine.