Jordan Turpin was 17 years old when she found herself crawling out of a window of her family’s home, hoping to save the lives of her 12 siblings.
For two years, she had been planning her escape after decades of unspeakable emotional and physical violence inflicted by her parents in their Perris, California home. Equipped with nothing but an old cellphone she found in the house, Jordan ran out and called 911.
“I was always terrified that if I called the cops or tried to escape, I would get caught, and then I knew I would die if I got caught,” Jordan, now 21, told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview Friday. “But at the end, when I saw all my younger siblings, I knew that’s what I had to do.”
Her bold getaway in January 2018 led to the discovery of her siblings and uncovered what Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin described as one of the “worst, most aggravated child abuse cases” he has ever seen. (More from CNN
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.
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. In one of the foster homes that several Turpins lived in, children were allegedly repeatedly abused; in another, 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. 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. Some of the older children, including Jordan, have struggled to find stable housing and continued to starve
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.”