20/20 ‘Escaping the House of Horrors’ The Turpin children endured starvation and torture

In 2017, 13 siblings were trapped in obscene living conditions at the hands of parents David and Louise Turpin in Perris, California. Two weeks into 2018 that all changed when 17-year-old Jordan Turpin escaped and sought help for the rest of the family.

When Jordan called 911 she alerted police to save her 12 siblings from starvation and captivity. When they arrived at the home, one of the children was shackled to a bed and there were indications that others had recently been shackled as well. All the children were shockingly malnourished and living in squalor. The media quickly dubbed the home “House of Horrors.”

The children not only were imprisoned and starved, but they also were also tortured by other forms of severe abuse like beatings and stranglings.

Jordan had feared seeking help because she knew she would be killed if she was caught. However, the conditions her siblings were in made her feel seeking help was something worth risking her life for.

“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 said in a new 20/20 interview airing tonight. “But at the end, when I saw all my younger siblings, I knew that’s what I had to do.”

The children’s ages ranged from 2 to 29. Jennifer Turpin was one of the oldest at the time. Like the others, she needed extensive medical care to become renourished and restored to health. Now 33, she recalls feeling joy and warmth for the first time at the hospital.

“Music was playing, I got up,” Jennifer Turpin told Diane Sawyer for the 20/20 episode airing tonight. “I made sure there was a little bit of a floor cleared out and I danced.”

When the children were rescued, they knew very little about the outside world, including concepts like medicine and the police. At the time of their rescue, seven of the children were over the age of 18 but they were so malnourished that police initially thought they were all minors. The 29-year-old was starved to the point where she only weighed 29 pounds.

Jennifer says she was always starving. The parents would sometimes drop off groceries for the kids, but would often forget, leaving them to survive on ketchup packets.

Both David and Louise Turpin were charged with twelve counts of torture, twelve counts of false imprisonment, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, and six counts of child abuse. David received extra charges of committing a lewd act on a child under 14 and perjury for when he had told the state that his children were being educated in a private school. They are sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.


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