13 Siblings Rescued From Prison Conditions at Home 3 Years Ago Feel 'Betrayed' By System

Siblings from the Turpin family who were rescued from their home where they experienced prison-like conditions three years ago feel betrayed by the system that's supposed to help them.

Starvation, being shackled to their beds, and locked in their homes are just a few of the abuses that the 13 siblings faced while under the guardianship of their parents Louise and David Turpin. A social services system was charged with helping the siblings transition to new lives but has been found to failed by an investigation from ABC News, The Associated Press reported.

There are allegations claiming the Turpin siblings, consisting of seven adults and six minor children, didn't receive basic needs from the system. Riverside County has hired an independent law firm to investigate the claims.

Melissa Donaldson, Riverside County's director of victims services said several of the children "felt betrayed" by how local officials handle their cases. There were instances where there was neither a safe place for the children nor food, she said.

"When the case first broke, I obviously got thousands of offers of help ... dentists and doctors and people saying, 'I will serve these kids pro bono. Please, send them my way,'" she said. "I had to pass on those referrals to the Child Protective Services workers and the hospital. And none of them were utilized."

Donaldson cried as she said the children were sometimes left alone to figure out how to go through the process. The reason she said she spoke out on the situation was "because we have to fix" the system.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Turpin Family, Abuse, Melissa Donaldson, Investigation
Neighbors write down messages for the Turpin's children on the front door of the home of David and Louise Turpin where police arrested the couple accused of holding 13 children captive in Perris, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. ABC News reported Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, that Riverside County has hired a private law firm to look into allegations that the adult and minor children haven't received many basic services. Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo, File

There also is a criminal investigation of a foster family suspected of mistreating several children, including one of the Turpins, ABC reported. A lawyer for that family denied the allegations.

The shocking abuse in the Turpin home went unnoticed in the community of Perris, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, until then-17-year-old Jordan Turpin escaped from the house and called police. Jordan and one of her sisters gave their first media interview for a segment on Friday's episode of ABC's "20/20."

Now 21, Jordan recalled how she could barely press the buttons for 911 after escaping the house. She had never spoken to anybody before on the phone, she said, and was shaking.

Seeing her siblings suffering, she said she felt like she had to do something.

"I had to make sure that if I left we wouldn't go back, and we would get the help we needed," she said in a tearful interview. "Because if we went back, there's no way I would be sitting here right now."

When she escaped, Jordan told a sheriff's deputy that her sisters and brothers, who ranged in age from 2 to 29, had been starved, chained to beds and forced to live in squalor. The children slept during the day, were active a few hours at night and had minimal education.

Body-worn camera footage from the deputy who rescued the siblings shows him talking to Jordan, who nervously says she's never talked to anyone outside the home. When the deputy asked if she was taking any medication, Jordan said she didn't know what that word meant.

When the 13 siblings were rescued, all but the 2-year-old were severely underweight and hadn't bathed for months. Investigators concluded the youngest child was the only one not abused by their parents, who have since been sentenced to life in prison.

In the days after their release, the adult and minor children were taken to hospitals for treatment. Donations and support poured in from around the world.

But since that time, the adult siblings have faced challenges accessing social services and even money that was donated for their care. The money was placed in a trust controlled by a court-appointed public guardian.

Joshua Turpin, 29, told ABC News he couldn't access funds to cover transportation needs and when he asked for help from the county's deputy public guardian assigned to his case, "she would just tell me, 'Just go Google it.'"

"I called the public guardian's office and she refused to let me request for a bike," he said.

In a statement, Riverside County Executive Officer Jeff Van Waganen said his office has hired a law firm run by former federal Judge Stephen G. Larson to analyze the services provided and the quality of care they received. A report is due by the end of March.

"The County of Riverside is committed to conducting a thorough and transparent review of the services provided to the Turpin siblings and to improve and strengthen the County's child welfare and dependent adult systems," the statement said.

Turpin Siblings, Investigation, Melissa Donaldson, Abuse
Melissa, Donaldson, Riverside Country's director of victims services, cried as she said the Turpin siblings were sometimes left alone to figure out the complicated processes in the social services system. In this photo, Louise (L) and David Turpin (R) sit with their attorney John Moore during a preliminary hearing on June 20, 2018 in Riverside. Irfan Khan/AFP via Getty Images

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