For years, investigators believe, the Turpin kids lived in filth and isolation — with little access to food or hygiene — until their rescue from their family’s home in Perris, California, earlier this year.
Allegedly held captive in an intensifying cycle of abuse, most of David and Louise Turpin’s children were severely malnourished when police discovered them in squalid conditions on Jan. 14, according to prosecutors. Some of them were even chained to their beds. Only the youngest, a toddler, seemed somewhat spared and had not been underfed.
Authorities have said the ordeal came to an end when one of the children, a 17-year-old girl, crawled out of their brown stucco-and-stone house through a window and called 911 to report the alleged torture and imprisonment.
The girl’s escape — long planned — led to her parents’ arrest, the siblings’ hospitalization and a series of revelations about their bleak existence. The investigation was featured on the cover of PEOPLE and in headlines around the world.
As David and Louise were taken into custody and charged with multiple counts of abuse, false imprisonment and torture, their kids — ages 2 through 29 at the time — were sent to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment.
“It is quite extraordinary [for them] to have some freedom, really for the first time, and experience life outside the type of constraints they had experienced,” Caleb Mason, one of the attorneys for the seven adult Turpin siblings, told PEOPLE in March.
In the few months since the end of their alleged captivity, the Turpin children have already made new lives for themselves.
Their parents remain in custody as they await trial and they have pleaded not guilty. The prosecution has said the children will testify against them if the case goes to trial.
This account of the adult siblings’ journey toward freedom is based on statements from California authorities as well as PEOPLE’s interviews with those who have interacted with the Turpin family before and since the parents’ arrests in January.
‘They Have the Support System’
Following their rescue, the seven adult Turpin children were sent to the Corona Regional Medical Center for treatment, where they got to enjoy everyday activities most people don’t think twice about: using iPads, watching movies such as Star Wars and Harry Potter and trying new foods like lasagna.
When their parents were arrested, prosecutors have said, the children lacked “a basic knowledge of life.”
In the hospital, while they explored the ability to make decisions on their own, the adult siblings used the technology they had at their disposal to stay in touch with the six younger kids — who were at another location — via Skype.
Despite the siblings’ lack of interaction with people beyond their immediate family, medical staff found them to be “warm and loving,” according to Karen Spiegel, mayor of Corona, California, who worked closely with nurses at CRMC.
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“They are progressing well and looking into the future, seeing where their lives could go, and they have the support system,” Spiegel told PEOPLE in February. “They have the whole community behind them.”
And then some. Thousands of well-wishers sent the siblings cards and money and gifts of books and movies while famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed a private concert for them in March.
And when somebody in the hospital mentioned on TV that the Turpin children were fans of John Denver?
Mason, their attorney, said he got a call from the estate of the late folk singer and “a couple of days later a big box arrived in my office with the full john Denver discography” as well as John Denver hats and T-shirts.
Meanwhile, authorities said the Turpin children were opening up about what they endured, if incrementally.
“Victims in these kinds of cases, they tell their story, but they tell it slowly. They tell it at their own pace,” Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin told the Associated Press in late January. “It will come out when it comes out.”
Life on Their Own
Released from the hospital on March 15, the seven adult siblings reportedly moved to a home in rural California where they looked to sort out their future plans (and where they were reunited with their family dogs).
While it was a joyous occasion in many ways, saying goodbye was not easy, according to Mark Uffer, CRMC’s chief executive officer.
“It was emotional for the staff and emotional for them,” Uffer told PEOPLE. “This has been their home away from wherever they were at before, so it was a little bit tough for them and the staff.”
The farewell party included cake, pizza and a karaoke machine, Uffer said.
“They made gifts for each one of us, little crafts for each one of us,” he said. “They made bracelets out of beads that they gave to all the nurses. They had little scrapbooks that they wanted us to all write messages in before they left so they had something to remember us by.”
The sibilngs’ future, ideally, does not look much different from anyone else’s.
“They have the same spectrum of hopes and dreams and aspirations as any other group of young adults,” Mason, their attorney, told PEOPLE.
He said that since the siblings have not had any kind of formal schooling, “The thing they want more than anything else is an education.” But they did not want to restrict themselves to online classes, kept away from the world.
“Eventually they are going to be just regular people out in the community going to classes, getting jobs walking around and you would never know,” Mason said. More than anything, the siblings “just want to move on from this. It will be hard because they have missed out on what most of us take for granted. A normal upbringing, normal socialization.”
While the siblings experienced “some unparalleled trauma,” Mason said, “it is going to take a little time, but I think they are very resilient and they are going to ultimately be fine.”