Before January the seven adult children of David and Louise Turpin allegedly suffered extreme violence and prolonged captivity while being deprived of things that many people take for granted, including regular access to food and showers.
But now that the siblings have been released from their parents’ care and a subsequent hospitalization, they are in a new home and building a new life — one, they hope, that includes going to school.
“They are all bright and articulate and incredibly eager to study,” Caleb Mason, an attorney for the seven siblings, tells PEOPLE. “The thing they want more than anything else is an education.”
The first step, Mason says, will be obtaining their GEDs or high-school diplomas. He is working with local university officials to “put together an educational plan for all of them” and says the siblings “for the most part have not had any kind of formal schooling.”
“None of them has had what I think anyone would consider adequate exposure to education, and that is what we are trying to remedy right now,” Mason says.
The siblings don’t plan to take classes via the internet, however. Kept for so long in apparent seclusion in their family’s home, their goal is to be “fully engaged students” not unlike anyone else in the classroom, Mason says.
“They do not want to be sequestered doing their education online,” he says. “They want to get the same sort of education as anyone else. We are hoping that we can find them within the next couple of years sitting in a college campus taking notes like anybody else. They have the same spectrum of hopes and dreams and educational aspirations as any other group of young adults.”
The Turpin parents — David, 56, and 49-year-old Louise Turpin — were arrested in January and each face numerous criminal charges in the alleged abuse and imprisonment of their 13 children, who ranged in age from 2 to 29 at the time their parents were taken into custody.
The counts include torture, false imprisonment and abuse. They have pleaded not guilty.
The Turpin parents are held in lieu of $12 million bond each and face up to life in prison if convicted on all charges.
Their attorneys have not responded to the allegations beyond broad comment about how serious they are. The next court date in the case is scheduled for May.
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David and Louise were arrested after their 17-year-old daughter escaped their Perris, California house on Jan. 14, investigators have said. She climbed through a window and, using a cell phone, called 911 and told authorities she and her siblings were allegedly being abused by their parents.
Responding officers found what they have called a scene of malnutrition and squalor at the Turpin residence, with some of the children chained to the furniture. Prosecutors allege the parents beat, strangled and starved the kids in an intensifying cycle of abuse dating back to at least 2010.
Among other disturbing behavior, prosecutors have said, the Turpin family slept all day and were “up all through the night,” going to bed about 4 or 5 a.m. The children were also allegedly forbidden to shower more than once a year and none had ever seen a dentist.
Twelve days ago — exactly two months after the case came to light — the seven adult siblings were quietly discharged from the local Corona Regional Medical Center, where they had been taken for treatment after their parents’ arrest, according to the Corona CEO.
From the hospital, they reportedly moved to a new home in an undisclosed rural part of California.
“It is pretty new and different and I think quite extraordinary to have some freedom, really for the first time, and experience life outside the type of constraints they had experienced,” he tells PEOPLE. “It is an extraordinarily positive thing for them and it will take some time to get used to, which is another reason we are trying to keep this transition at a slow and steady pace.”
“Eventually,” Mason says, “they are going to be just regular people out in the community — going to classes, getting jobs walking around and you would never know. The problem is that they have been through some unparalleled trauma, so it is going to take a little time. But I think they are very resilient and they are going to ultimately be fine.”
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During their hospitalization, the adult siblings learned how to play the guitar, with a special appreciation for the music of John Denver. The day after news spread of their affinity for the musician, Mason received a call from Denver’s estate with an offer to send over some of his music.
“A couple of days later, a big box arrived in my office with the full John Denver discography,” Mason says.
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While the older siblings have been discharged, the status of the six minor Turpin children is unclear. They had been treated in a separate facility from the seven adults, though a hospital official told PEOPLE the siblings were in touch via Skype.
Going forward, Mason says the plan is to slowly expose the adult siblings to the outside world.
“They are moving to the next phase of their journey, which is actually beginning to rejoin the community,” he says. “They see themselves as ordinary people who want to have ordinary lives.”