Two Turpin sisters are speaking out for the first time about the abuse they suffered alongside their 11 siblings who were held captive for years before escaping in 2018.
“The only word I know to call it is hell,” one of the Turpin sisters shared in an upcoming “20/20” special with Diane Sawyer.
“The only word I know to call it is hell,” one of the Turpin sisters said in a clip of an upcoming “20/20” special with Diane Sawyer.
Disturbing details about the case came to light in January 2018, after one of the daughters escaped their home in Perris, California, and called 911 using a cellphone she had taken with her. On of the Turpin girls, who was 17 at the time, told police that her brothers and sisters were being held by their parents, David and Louise Turpin, and some were chained, investigators said.
At first, first responders believed thought the girl was a much younger child because she was so emaciated. When police entered the house, known as the “house of horrors,” they discovered children ranging in age from 2 to 29 being held in “dark and foul-smelling surroundings,” investigators said.
Children were found bound to their beds and furniture by chains and padlocks. They informed police they were “starving,” according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
In the interview, the girl who called 911 spoke about what led her to escape.
“I think it was us coming so close to death so many times,” she said. “It was literally a now or never. If something happened to me, at least I died trying,” the girl added.
Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said the abuse began as neglect during the 17 years the family lived in Fort Worth, Texas, and intensified when they moved to California in 2010. The couple’s youngest child was the only one who was not abused.
Prosecutors reveal that the children were given only one rationed meal a day and allowed to shower once a year. They would get in trouble for things like playing in the water while they washed their hands. Punishments reportedly ranged from being beaten and choked to being shackled to their beds with no access to the bathroom for months at a time.
David and Louise Turpin would even bake pies and not let the children eat. They would also purchase toys but not allow the children to open them.
The kids spent most of their time in the house but on a rare occasion, take family trips, including one where they went to Las Vegas for their parents’ vow renewal.
Authorities revealed that only one child, a son, was allowed to leave home to attend classes at a community college but was always accompanied by his mother. And one of the daughters was allegedly the victim of a lewd act by her father.
The parents pleaded guilty to 14 counts each of torture, dependent adult abuse, child endangerment and false imprisonment in 2019. They were sentenced to life in prison.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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