Two of the Turpin sisters, who — along with their 11 siblings — were held captive by their parents for years before escaping in 2018, are speaking out for the first time about the abuse they endured at the hands of their parents, David and Louise Turpin. In a clip of an upcoming 20/20 special with Diane Sawyer, the sisters described their experience inside the "House of Horrors" in Perris, California.
"The only word I know to call it is hell," Jennifer Turpin said in a video published by ABC News ahead of the Nov. 19 special. "I think it was us coming so close to death so many times," said Jordan, who had the courage to call 911 in 2018, leading to authorities finding and saving her and her 12 siblings. "It was literally a now or never. If something happened to me, at least I died trying." She said through tears that her "whole body was shaking" and that she "couldn't really dial 911."
13 children were held captive by their parents in a survival story like you’ve never seen. Now, hear from the family for the first time. Watch the @DianeSawyer special event - “Escape From A House Of Horror” - premiering Friday, November 19th at 9/8c on @ABC and stream on @Hulu. pic.twitter.com/JrxeQBuR2O— 20/20 (@ABC2020) November 9, 2021
The disturbing case took over national headlines in January 2018 when the girl, who was 17 at the time, escaped the home and called 911 using a cellphone she had taken with her. She told police that her brothers and sisters were being held by their parents and that some were chained, investigators said. Responding officers initially thought the girl was a child because she was so emaciated.
When police entered the "House of Horrors," they found children ranging in age from 2 to 29 being held "in dark and foul-smelling surroundings," investigators said. Some of the children were even bound to their beds and furniture by chains and padlocks; many of them told police they were "starving," according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. The youngest child was the only one who appeared to have not been abused.
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. Prosecutors said that the children were given one rationed meal a day and allowed to shower only once a year. They got in trouble for things like playing in the water when they washed their hands. Punishments ranged from physical beatings to being shackled to their beds with no access to the bathroom for months at a time, prosecutors said. One of the daughters was allegedly the victim of a lewd act by her father, according to prosecutors.
David and Louise Turpin also inflicted cruel psychological punishments on their children, including baking pies and not letting them eat as well as buying toys but refusing to let the children open them. The family occasionally took trips, including one where they all went to Las Vegas for their parents' vow renewal. According to authorities, only one child, a son, was allowed to leave home to attend classes at a community college — but he was always accompanied by his mother.
David and Louise Turpin pleaded guilty to 14 counts each of torture, dependent adult abuse, child endangerment and false imprisonment in 2019. They were both sentenced to life in prison. The upcoming special called Escape From a House of Horror - A Diane Sawyer Special Event airs Friday, Nov. 19 at 9:01 p.m. on ABC and will also be available to stream on Hulu.