Turpin Children Continues to Suffer as California Guardianship System Fails Them Again

Photo: (Photo : FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The unimaginable horrors the 13 Turpin children experienced at the hands of their parents might be over following the imprisonment of their father and mother, David and Louise Turpin, in 2018. However, the siblings continue to suffer and live in poverty and filth because the California agencies tasked to assist them have not done their jobs.

Nearly four years after their rescue from their abusive parents, all of the Turpin children from Perris, California, still could not access proper benefits due to them. According to a "20/20" expose with Diane Sawyer, the kids, whose ages range from minors to early 30s, are still deprived of good housing, healthy food, health care, and education as their court-appointed guardian failed and continue to fail to account for their needs.

As dependents of the state since their parents' incarceration for life imprisonment, the Turpin children should be entitled to the benefits of the government's social programs, and they have money kept in trust through the public's help. However, as the details of their guardianship are confidential, based on a court order, it has been difficult for the public defenders to find clarity in what happened to the Turpin children's trust fund.

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'Just Google It'

Now in his mid-20s, Joshua Turpin revealed that when he asked for help from the court-appointed guardian, Vanessa Espinoza, he was told to "just Google" any information he needed. However, because the Turpin children were never allowed by their parents to leave the house, they never learned to live a normal life and struggled to navigate their everyday existence after being in captivity.

Joshua and his sisters, Jordan and Jennifer, spoke to Sawyer to shed light on their case. Since gaining freedom from their parents, in what the public dubbed as the "House of Horrors," six of the adult kids have been under government guardianship while the rest of the children have been placed in foster homes.

However, the Turpin children put in the foster care system continue to suffer abuse from their foster parents. One of the foster mothers even told the kids they now understood why their parents chained them up and did not allow them to leave their house.

Jordan and Jennifer also told Sawyer that their guardians did not teach them the basics, such as crossing the street or using the public transport system. Probes from "20/20" investigative reporter David Scott revealed that the $600,000 donated to the Turpins, when their story shocked the public years ago, remain shrouded in a court-mandated secret.

"The public deserves to know what their government did and didn't do, and how we failed these victims," according to 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."

Independent Investigation Launched

After the "20/20" expose, Riverside County officials launched "an independent and comprehensive investigation" into each of the Turpin children's cases. In a statement, Riverside County Executive Officer Jeff Van Wagenen said they would speak to the Turpins and present or former county employees tasked to help them.

The inquiry undertaken by retired U.S. District Judge Stephen G. Larson is expected to be completed in March 2022. According to Wagenen, Larson's report will become the foundation of the policies and reform programs that the county will follow for the Turpin children and similar child abuse cases.

Wagenen also said that his office would be overhauling the child welfare and dependent adult systems but acknowledged that they would have to exert more effort to help the most vulnerable in their communities.

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