David and Louise Turpin are accused of abusing their children, ages 2 to 29, while holding them captive

By Steve Helling
January 16, 2019 11:13 AM
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One year ago, a 17-year-old girl slipped out the window of a Perris, Calif. home and dialed 911 shortly before 6 a.m. What she told dispatchers shocked them — and would soon shock the nation.

The teen alleged that she and her 12 siblings had been held against their will by their parents, and that some of the children were chained.

Responding officers were shocked at the teen’s frail appearance and at the unspeakable abuse they encountered inside the house: Some children were shackled while the others were in cramped, foul-smelling rooms. They ranged in age from 2 to 29.

Soon after, parents David and Louise Turpin were arrested and charged with nearly 50 counts of torture, false imprisonment and child abuse.

David-Louis Turpin/Facebook

According to the lawyer for the seven adult children of the suspects, the siblings are admirably adapting to a new life — and have left a lot of their angry feelings behind.

“They’re not bitter,” attorney Jack Osborn said on Today. “They really take every day as it is, as a gift.”

Last year, Osborn told ABC News that the siblings “want to be known as survivors, not victims.”

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Louise and David Turpin (first and third from left) in court
IRFAN KHAN/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The brave 17-year-old who called 911 had been planning to escape for two years, Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Campos testified during a preliminary hearing last year.

Eventually, the teen was able to get an old cell phone that had belonged to her older brother.

“They are abusive,” she said of her parents, according to the call audio. “And two of my sisters are chained up.”

The alleged abuse and malnutrition endured by the siblings resulted in long-term effects, investigators allege.

One of the adult female children was 35 lbs. underweight and suffered from “severe protein caloric malnutrition, numbness and weakness in extremities,” as well as “severe skeletal abnormalities,” investigator Wade Walsvick testified last year, based on his conversation with a doctor in the Corona Regional Medical Center who treated all seven adult siblings.

The Turpin family home in Perris, California
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty
The Turpin family
Courtesy Billy Lambert

The trial for David, 57, and Louise Turpin, 50, is expected to start later this year. They have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they face life in prison.

An attorney for the Turpins did not immediately return PEOPLE’s message for comment.

While the case goes forward, the kids are learning about life outside captivity.

“They came from a situation that seemed normal to them. And now they’re in a new normal,” Osborn told Today. “And so I think they may spend a long time processing the two.”