true crime

Two years ago, the Turpin children escaped their house of horrors. This is their life now.

The following contains details of child abuse and neglect, which may be triggering for survivors. If you are in need of support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

They carry a surname that millions around the world associate with unfathomable cruelty, and they carry trauma that no person should ever have to endure.

But more than two years on from their rescue, the 13 Turpin children are forging new lives away from their abusive parents and the ‘house of horrors’ in which they were held captive for so many years.

“They’re all happy,” Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Kevin Beecham told PEOPLE this week. “They are moving on with their lives.”

Their rescue.

The children, from California, were the survivors of one of the worst child abuse and neglect cases in recent US history.

Their parents, David and Louise Turpin, were each sentenced to 25 years behind bars in April 2019, having pled guilty that February to 14 charges, including torture, adult abuse, child endangerment and false imprisonment.

Prior to the sentencing, audio was released of the 911 call that exposed their crimes. One of the Turpin children, then 17-years-old, fled through an open window and used her brother’s old deactivated mobile phone to dial the only number it would allow: 911.

“I live in a family of 15 people and my parents are abusive,” she told the operator. “My two little sisters, right now, are chained up… with chains. They’re chained to the bed.”

David and Louise Turpin in court. Images: Getty.

When police arrived, the teen showed them phone pictures of her siblings in shackles.

Authorities entered the home and found what District Attorney Mike Hestrin described as "among the worst, most aggravated child abuse cases I have ever seen".

The house was in squalor, and all but two of the children were malnourished. The eldest, who was then 29-years-old, weighed just 37 kilograms — the weight of a typical 11 or 12-year-old.

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Hestrin told media at the time that the siblings would be chained up for "weeks or even months" and were only freed to brush their teeth or use the bathroom.

They weren't allowed to bathe, and the 17-year-old told authorities she hadn't seen a doctor in five years or ever been to a dentist.

All 13 were taken to hospital for treatment and observation.

The Turpin's home looked unremarkable from the outside. Image: Getty.

ABC reported at the time that the seven adults had "raw intelligence", but lacked understanding of the world outside their home prison.

"They didn’t know how to wash their hair, brush their teeth or use money, among other basic skills," the network reported. And having subsisted almost entirely on a diet of peanut butter or deli meat sandwiches for years, they treated the food given to them in hospital with suspicion — they'd never seen a tomato before, or berries.

The Turpin children today.

Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Kevin Beecham told PEOPLE all 13 children have been receiving the support they need to start their new lives.

One of them has graduated from college, and several go to school and have jobs, Beecham told the publication. The six youngest have been adopted and others live in group homes, or independently.

Beecham said all see each other regularly, meeting up in discreet locations.

“They are receiving really good help,” he said. “With therapy, counselling and a lot of psychological assistance, they’re exponentially in a better place than they were before.”

Unsurprisingly, some have changed their names.

“It would be difficult for them to carry that name," he said, "that label of being a victim, forever."

Lifeline: 13 11 14
1800 RESPECT (domestic violence counselling service): 1800 737 732
Blue Knot Foundation (support for survivors of childhood trauma): 1300 657 380
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800

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