At 5:49 AM on January 14, 2018 17-year-old Jordan Turpin took a chance that saved the lives of herself and her 12 siblings. She had never really seen the outside world, but she knew she had to try in order to save everyone from the horrific misery they were enduring at the hands of their parents. Jordan grabbed her brother’s old cellphone and snuck out a window of their house. Once she felt she’d made a safe enough distance, she struggled to call 911 with shaking hands.
How did Jordan Turpin get access to a cellphone?
The details are murky but at one point one of Jordan’s brothers was given a cell phone so their parents could check in with him. At the time of Jordan’s escape, the phone was no longer in service and her brother had been planning to throw it away. It’s unknown if the parents knew that the phone was still around. Although it didn’t have cell service, like most phones, it was able to make one call out: 911.
Jordan had previously used this phone to discover the outside world, presumably through wifi. She would sneak around when her parents were asleep or not home and watch Justin Bieber interviews and Disney Channel shows. She even clandestinely started her own social media accounts, including a YouTube channel where she recorded herself singing. A commenter on her YouTube channel helped her see that her situation was as abusive as she thought and that her parents should be turned into the police.
Jordan was standing in the middle of the street because she wasn’t sidewalks. She expected her parents to find her at any minute and fully expected them to kill her when they did.
Once she got her fingers to work, she tried to explain to the dispatcher in her wavering childlike voice the unbelievable circumstances inside her parent’s home. She had never even spoken on the phone before this courageous call.
“Help . . . I just ran away from home . . .” she says in 911 tapes aired by ABC’s 20/20. “I live in a family of 15 and we have abusing parents.” This 911 call was played at her parents’ 2019 trial.
“They hit us,” she explained. “They throw us across the room. They pull our hair. My two little sisters right now are chained up.”
Jordan Turpin was 17 years old, but she sounded much younger when she called 9-1-1 for help after slipping out of a window at 5:49 A.M.
She revealed that she had never been outside before and she didn’t even know her own address. She had taken some documents with her in her backpack, but she didn’t understand street names so she rambled out a bunch of numbers she saw. Thankfully dispatchers were able to use her phone’s GPS to find her location.
Dispatchers told her to go by the nearest stop sign so police could find her. She was terrified about waiting in one place for so long because she might be discovered by her parents, and she was scared that police might take her back home and ruin her escape. But Jordan didn’t have a lot of options, so she waited.
She told them she was calling because she wanted to help her sisters who were chained up because they stole their mother’s food and were begging someone to call for help. They were bruised, a word Jordan didn’t know at the time. She called her sisters’ marks “places.” She no longer feared death so much because she had come so close so many times before. Jordan had to take the chance to save everyone from further torture.
She told them she lived in filth so bad that sometimes she had trouble breathing. The last time she had had a bath was a year ago. When police arrived, they asked for proof of her desperate situation, so she pulled out photographic evidence she had stashed in her bag.