After Escaping Captivity from Abusive Parents, the Turpin Siblings Faced a New Set of Horrors

Disturbing details about the Turpins' post-rescue lives emerged in a new report from ABC's 20/20, alleging that their past few years "have been marred by the county's missteps and mistakes"

When 13 California siblings were rescued from imprisonment in 2018, they entered a previously unknown world filled with promise.

Jordan Turpin — who was 17 when she escaped her abusive parents' "house of horrors" and got help for herself and her siblings — recalls the first place she visited after being freed: a park with two of her sisters.

"I was so excited because I could smell the air, smell the grass," she said in an interview with Diane Sawyer on this week's episode of 20/20. "I was like, 'How could heaven be better than this?'"

Prior to their rescue, the Turpin children had spent most of their lives indoors — hidden from the outside world — where they were regularly beaten and starved. At times, the children were chained to their beds or put in cages for breaking house rules, which included keeping their hands off their parents' food and remaining seated unless directed otherwise.

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David and Louise Turpin. Jae C. Hong/AP (2)

When the Turpin parents were arrested in 2018 and later convicted on 14 felony counts including cruelty to an adult dependent, child cruelty, torture and false imprisonment, the case that captivated the nation's attention appeared to find its happy ending — but appearances and reality aren't always in sync.

A new investigation from ABC News, featured on Friday's episode of 20/20, reveals the rocky road that the Turpin siblings faced in the years that followed their rescue, validated by a few brave county officials aiming to expose a broken system.

"The public deserves to know what their government did and didn't do, and how we failed these victims," said Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin. "[It's] unimaginable to me that we could have the very worst case of child abuse that I've ever seen, maybe one of the worst in California history, and that we would then not be able to get it together to give them basic needs, basic necessities."

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The Turpin family
The Turpin family. David-Louis Turpin/Facebook

After leaving the "House of Horrors," the seven Turpin children who were minors were placed in foster homes. The six adult children were given a court-appointed public guardian to manage their health care, nutrition, safety, housing and education.

What reportedly followed were a series of new horrors. In one of the foster homes that several Turpins lived in, children were allegedly abused over an extended period of time. In another home, a foster parent told one of the Turpin girls that she understands why her parents chained her up.

The older siblings, who were sent out into high-violence neighborhoods with little-to-no life skills training, have allegedly been denied basic care from their public guardian. Speaking with ABC News, they reported that their guardian was often unwilling to offer simple support, such as teaching them how to use public transportation, cross the street properly, and access their health care benefits.

"When I would ask her for help, she would just tell me, you know, 'Just go Google it,'" said Joshua Turpin, now 29.

Some of the older children, including Jordan, have also struggled to find stable housing and continued to starve.

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Some of the donations that were collected in support of the Turpin siblings.

David Scott, an investigative reporter for ABC News, noted that these poor living conditions persisted despite the Turpin siblings receiving more than $600,000 in donations from strangers following their release.

"Most of that money went into an official trust overseen by the court and hidden from public oversight," Scott said. "County officials refused to tell us how much has been spent, or on what, but the Turpin we spoke to said those funds are hard to access."

"It horrifies me to think things like this are happening to people who have been abused in a system that was specifically set up to help them," said retired Superior Court of California Judge LaDoris H. Cordell. "Shamefully, the system failed this family."

Fortunately, the Turpins know a thing or two about resilience. The youngest four children are now together in a foster home, where siblings say they're finally happy. As for the others, they're leaning on each other and learning to get by.

"It feels at home being with all of us," Jordan said. "Every time we're together, it's a very special moment because we always know at the end of the day, we're always going to have each other."

Jaycee Dugard, an author and activist who spent 18 years of her youth in captivity, has set up a new fund through her foundation to support the Turpin siblings, encouraging all who know their story to donate.

Diane Sawyer's exclusive 20/20 interview with the Turpin sisters aired Friday night on ABC News. The episode, titled "Escape from a House of Horror," is now available for streaming on ABC News' digital platforms and Hulu.

If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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