Lifestyle & Human Interest

After Escaping 'House of Horror,' Sisters Describe Outpouring of Support


In 2018, the world was introduced to the Turpin family after Jordan, one of 13 children, broke out of the family home in Perris, California, under cover of night and managed to call the police with an old cellphone she’d gotten from her brother.

As the case unraveled, horror after horror was discovered.

The children, ages 2 to 29, were incredibly malnourished. Some of them had been chained to their beds. They rarely had the opportunity to bathe, and they had been taken out of school and left to their own devices under the guise of “homeschooling.”

Jordan was 17 at the time and had never spoken to a stranger on her own like she did that night when a deputy responded to her call.

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Out of concern for her younger sisters, who had recently been chained to their beds for taking food from their mother, she’d slipped out a window and shakily dialed 911, fearing for her life.

“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,” she told ABC News last week. “But at the end, when I saw all my younger siblings, I knew that’s what I had to do.”

“Escape from a House of Horror” is the name of the ABC exclusive released on Friday. It details never-before-seen moments from the rescue and investigation, including bodycam footage from the responding deputy, Anthony Colace.

If Jordan hadn’t captured photos of the horrible conditions the children were being kept in, she might have been brushed aside as another runaway teen. Jordan later said she and her sister Jennifer had only known to take pictures thanks to episodes of “Cops” their brother used to secretly watch.

When Colace saw the photos she had, he knew it was serious.

“They looked very sad, malnourished. They were very pale,” he said. “They had bags underneath their eyes. Once I saw that photo, it really sealed the deal for me.”

When police entered the home and discovered the state of the children and their living conditions, the parents were arrested and the children removed from the home.

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David and Louise Turpin were sentenced to 25 years to life after pleading guilty to 14 charges, including false imprisonment, adult abuse, child endangerment and torture, according to CNN.

The older children, totally unprepared to live on their own, have faced many struggles since 2018, including more abuse and starvation as they learned to navigate the world.

Jordan managed to earn a high school diploma within a year and is now taking college classes. She wants to be an author or a motivational speaker someday but still has some healing to do.

Jennifer, the oldest Turpin child, has a job at a restaurant, her own place and just got a car. At 33, she only has one word for the home she was rescued from.

“The only word I know to call it is ‘hell,'” she said.

Since the release of the special, the Turpin children have received a lot of renewed support. A charity started by activist Jaycee Dugard is highlighting their case and fundraising for their cause. Things are certainly looking up, even if there’s a long way to go.

Jennifer and Jordan both still have faith. Jennifer even hopes to share some of the Christian pop music she’s written someday.

“All the love and support I’m getting … it’s overwhelming, but it’s awesome,” Jennifer said on Good Morning America on Monday.

“When people are saying that I matter, and they say that I’m loved and that I know I’m making a difference … I don’t understand it, because my whole life I thought that I didn’t matter and I wasn’t loved,” Jordan said.

“I think everyone’s definitely in a better place right now,” Jordan added of herself and her siblings. “I know me personally, I have a lot of healing to do from the last home I was in.

“I feel like there was a lot of damage done, and it’s just been really hard, but I think things are going to start getting better right now. You know? We just have to have faith.”

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