In a recent interview on “20/20” with Diane Sawyer, 33-year-old Jennifer Turpin and 21-year-old Jordan Turpin said their parents, David and Louise, used belts, sticks, dog kennels and homemade cages as tools for punishment, in addition to chaining them to their beds and pulling on their hair when they misbehaved.
“They literally used the Bible to explain their behavior to us,” Jennifer said in the interview. “They loved to point out things in Deuteronomy, saying that, ‘We have the right to do this to you.’ … That they even had the right to kill us if we didn’t listen.”
The shocking abuse in the Turpin home went unnoticed in the community of Perris, about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles, until then-17-year-old Jordan Turpin escaped from the house and called police.
During the “20/20” interview, Jordan recalled how she could barely press the buttons for 911 after escaping the house. She had never spoken to anybody before on the phone, she said, and was shaking.
“I had to make sure that if I left we wouldn’t go back, and we would get the help we needed,” she said in a tearful interview. “Because if we went back, there’s no way I would be sitting here right now.”
A Southern California county has brought in outside investigators to look into whether its social services system failed to provide adequate housing, food and other services for 13 siblings since they were rescued from the horribly abusive conditions in 2018.
Some of the children reported they “felt betrayed” by local officials’ handling of their cases, said Melissa Donaldson, Riverside County’s director of victim services. Donaldson said there were times when the children did not have a safe place to stay or enough food.
ABC News reported Friday that Riverside County has hired a private law firm to look into allegations the seven adult and six minor children in the Turpin family did not get basic services after they were freed from their parents’ prison-like home.
Their parents, David and Louise Turpin, have since been sentenced to life in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.