Previously on The Secret Sits, David and Louise Turpin accomplished their goal of having 12 children, but the couple’s inability or unwillingness to take care of these children has led to a life of misery for the children. They are forced to live a nocturnal lifestyle, they are hardly fed and they are all woefully uneducated, despite the fact that David Turpin continually registers his house as a home school. And that is where we pick up our story today.
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Welcome to The Secret Sits, I’m your host John Dodson. Join us every Thursday as we uncover the Secrets behind the world’s most fascinating true crime cases. You can find all episodes of The Secret Sits for free on Apple Podcast, Spotify or where ever you get your podcasts. And if you like what you are hearing, reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook @The Secret Sits Podcast or on Twitter @SecretSitsPod. Now, on with our story.
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As Thanksgiving approached, one day, David called Jordan to come upstairs to see him in the television room. All of the other children where off in their rooms and Louise was not at home. David motioned for Jordan to come over to his chair when she got within arms reach of her father, he reached of and pulled the girls pants down. Jordan immediately said, “I don’t like that” and pulled her pants back up. But David ignored her and pulled her pants down again, he then picked up the girl and placed her on his lap. Before anything else could happen, Louise arrived home and Jordan jumped up and pulled her pants back up and she went to her room. When David and Jordan were alone later, he told her not to tell anyone.
During April of 2014 Jeanetta had somehow found a Barbie doll and when Louise caught the 14-year-old with the doll she was infuriated she took the doll away and as punishment, she made the girl go to her room and stand in the corner. This lasted for hours and Jeanetta began feeling faint, she yelled downstairs for her mother, but she was on a phone call and could not be bothered. Jeanetta eventually passed out and hit the floor so hard that she fractured her jaw, and broke a couple of her teeth. Later, when Louise finally finished her phone call, she went and found Jeanetta in terrible pain, covered in blood. Louise still waited another hour before taking the girl to the hospital. They confirmed that she did have a hairline fracture in her jaw and they wanted her to come for a check up in a few days, Jeanetta never returned to the hospital for any checkups.
In May David and Louise purchased a brand-new home in Perris, California, even with several bankruptcies the FHA still gave the couple a $350,000 loan. This home in Perris would be yet another prison for the children. David’s job at the Northrop Grumman was taking a lot of his time, so the children were home most of the time with just their mother. This is also where the physical violence began to accelerate. Louise would use physical punishment for every sing little thing the kids did. She also got heavier chains, which caused more bruising. The current favorite children, Jennifer, Joshua, Julianne and Jeanetta were used as spies by Louise to root out suspects and those suspects would be punished. They guarded the halls, the kitchen and David and Louise’s bedroom.
The other children were not ignorant that these 4 were getting special treatment, Joshua was even allowed to sit and watch TV with his parents. The nocturnal lifestyle continued in this house as well, bedtime was 4 or 5 am and they would sleep through the entire day. All of the children’s beds had chains and padlocks attached to them. Exercise was also strictly forbidden, Jordan would quietly pace back and forth in her bedroom, trying to make sure her muscles did not atrophy, not that she knew what that was. Jennifer was now in charge of making all of the meals for her siblings. She would make the three options for dinner and each kid was called down one at a time to eat. They would now eat standing at the kitchen counter and they could have water from the kitchen faucet. And while their children could only eat; peanut butter, bologna, or a burrito, David and Louise were still eating out or getting take out to bring home, for themselves. They would buy beautiful pies and bring them home, no one was allowed to eat the pie, it just sat there, beautiful and delicious, until it began to spoil and then little green dots began to appear and then the entire pie, still untouched by anyone in the house, turned completely molded and it would be thrown out.
The children still had to ask permission to go to the bathroom and if permission was not given in time, they would soil themselves.
After the move to Perris, Louise found out that she was pregnant again, this would be the couple’s 13th child, it’s a blessing.
That October, like clockwork, here comes David registering his new school, the Sandcastle Day School was the name of this new school. But just like all of the other times, there would be no teaching going on at this school. The 11-year-old, Jolinda had only learned the alphabet up to the letter I. Honestly, aside from the two oldest kids, Jennifer and Joshua, every other kid was still at the kindergarten level. And when Louise did decide to teach a lesson, it was just another opportunity for punishment. If the kids got answers wrong, she would hit them, pull their hair, or toss them across the room.
The strangest thing also happened during this time in the families’ lives, Louise enrolled Joshua, who was now 22, in a music class at the near by Mt. San Jacinto College. He would attend classes for the next three years and he became an honor student. Every day Louise would drive Joshua to school, she would escort him to class, wait outside of said classroom and then escort him back to the car. They had a potluck meal in one of Joshua’s classes one day and the other students remember, Joshua eating as if he had never eaten before.
At their new house on Muir Wood Road, Louise purchased statues of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse to place out in the front yard. Their two vehicles also had custom tags, they were Disney themed and the tags read, DLand and DL4ever. Louise gave birth to Janna in early 2015 and posted a picture of herself in a Snow-White outfit with the baby on Facebook. It was here in Perris that Jordan decided she could no longer live this way, she wanted out, she wanted to escape. She began making a plan, but it would take her 2 long years before escape was possible.
Life for the children in this house continued as it had in every house before, the house smelled of human feces and the windows were closed at all times. Jonathan, who was now 22, got into trouble the most and he spent a lot of time chained to his top bunk bed. At one point there was a large lice outbreak, but Jonathan was just kept chained to his bed, and he stayed chained to the bed for several months at a time. Louise would knuckle punch the youngest children I the head, Jolinda said she would get hit in the head so hard that he mind would go blank.
That October, for Halloween, the family went back to Las Vegas for their third wedding renewal ceremony. Everything was the same as last time, except a cheaper wedding package and the new baby. Kent Ripley was once again, their officiant. The ceremony ended with Kent saying, “It is Halloween Day the year 2015, and by the power that’s vested in me by the suit that I wear today…the two of you still will be husband and wife. Together, forever and may you be blessed with more children”.
As a Christmas gift, or a way to just celebrate the holiday season, Louise and David Turpin unchained all of their children and allowed them to experience what would be referred to as “good treatment”. During the time of good treatment Mother and Father would buy the kids expensive gifts and actually allow them to play with those gifts, they would also purchase better food for them and allow them to eat normally and they would even play board games and do activities with the children. But all good things must come to an end and this good treatment would last anywhere from 2 days to a couple of weeks, depending on the parents’ attitude.
On Thursday, February 18th, 2016 Phyllis Robinette, the woman who had sold her own children, trafficked them to her own father, died, she was 66 years old. Elizabeth and Teresa contacted their big sister, Louise to let them know that her mother was about to pass away and all she wanted before she died was to Skype with Louise and see her 13 beautiful grandchildren. Louise would not even answer their calls and Phyllis died before getting to see those she had wronged, but also loved. John Taylor paid for the funeral costs of his daughter’s memorial service; he was the only one who could afford the services. When John Taylor entered the room for the services, the 92-year-old man immediately walked over to his granddaughter, Elizabeth and asked her if she would come over later, and give him a tight hug.
Sometime in 2016 Jennifer lent her cell phone to her sister Jordan, just so she could search on the internet and enjoy herself. When Jordan, who at this time is 15, finds some Justin Bieber music videos, she of course becomes infatuated with the pop star. Her brother Joshua walked in and caught the girl on the phone and immediately reported the incident to their mother. Louise who lost her shit, she grabbed the small girl around the neck, picking her up, fully off the ground, “Do you want to die?” she screamed at the girl. Jordan indicated that, no, she did not want to die. “Yes, you do! You want to die and go to hell!” she screamed. After this incident would be the first time Jordan would sneak out of the house in an attempt to escape, but she became frightened and ran back to the house shortly after leaving.
Three months later, Louise’s father Allen Robinette died, just 4 months after his ex-wife. Once again, Louise refused all forms of communication from her sisters until after her father had passed. Louise was focusing on her social media presence during this time, trying to get her family to replace the recently cancelled show 19 Kids and Counting.
Joshua was still attending classes at Mt San Jacinto College and his grades were really great. One day a girl in his a cappella class, who also did not have many friends approached Joshua and asked if he wanted to be friends. A few days later she followed her new friend as he walked out to the parking lot to meet his mother, who still drove him to and from class every day. Joshua approached his mother and said, “I met this girl, and she doesn’t have any friends either. Can we be friends?” Louise took note of the girl and shrugged off the question with a quick sure. This was the last day that Joshua ever attended his college classes.
For Mother’s Day in 1017, all of the female children were allowed to take their first bath in a year. Louise would bath them, scrubbing their hair which was caked with grime and filth and washing off the dirt, matted to their bodies after not bathing for a year. When. it was Jolinda’s turn to bath, the girl undressed and got into the water, after hitting the water the girl realized that she needed to pee. This minor inconvenience enraged Louise and she grabbed the girl around her neck, choking her. After all of the baths were done, all of the girls donned matching dresses and went out with Louise and took some photos for her Facebook account. After taking the photos, the girls were forced back into their heavily soiled old cloths. They would not receive another bath for 9 months.
This Christmas would set off a string of events which would lead to the downfall of the Turpin family secrets. This started with Joshua receiving a new cell phone for Christmas, and he gave his old phone to his sister Jordan. The phone had no cell plan, so Jordan could not make calls, but she could serf the internet and she could also call 911. David and Louise, knew that they had nothing to worry about, they had conditioned their children enough that escape did not even cross their minds.
Jordan used her new phone to discover new found freedoms, she opened accounts on several social media platforms and she even created her own YouTube channel and began posting videos of her singing some of her original songs. On all of her social media, Jordan went by the pseudonym Lacey Swan.
As the holiday season approached, David was told that his engineering job with Northrop Grumman was being transferred to Oklahoma. This would mean another move for the giant family and it also meant brand new challenges and uncertainty for 13 children. Jordan new that it was time, it was now or never, she had to escape, NOW.
The early morning air was very chilly. It was Sunday and it was still dark outside, 5:30am. This was just past bedtime for the nocturnal family. Jordan quietly opened the window to her first-floor bedroom. Jordan squeezed out through the window into the cold morning air, her little sister Jolinda had decided to go with her. The two girls were very scared and disoriented, they had only been outside of this house a few times and they were very unfamiliar with the streets and houses around them. After looking around, Jolinda became overwhelmed and frightened and she ran back to the safety of familiarity within her house.
Jordan pressed on, this was her chance, the chance for all 12 of her siblings, to survive.
5:51am the phone rings in a 911 dispatch call center.
[Jordan Turpin 911 Call]
“911 What’s your emergency?”
“Okay, I live in a family of fifteen people, and my parents are abusive. They abuse us, and my two little sisters right now are chained up. They chain us up if we do things we’re not supposed to.”
The operator asked her to spell her name.
“TURPEN” Jordan replied, not even knowing that she had misspelled her own last name. The operator then asked Jordan if she knew her address, as part of her plan, Jordan had stolen an envelope which had come in the mail, that way she would have her address. The problem was that Jordan did not know WHAT AN ADDRESS WAS. So when asked the girl read a series of numbers 925707774: this turned out to be the numbers of her street address and the zip code all rattled off together. Jordan than sat on 911 with the dispatcher: Kelly Eckley for the next 20 minutes describing her home life, the disgusting conditions her family lived in and the abuse she and her siblings have suffered under the hands of David and Louise Turpin.
Two police officers were dispatched to Jordan’s location. When they found the girl, they thought she was no older than 10, she was actually 17 years old. She described everything to the officers, just as she had to the 911 operator. Then Jordan showed the officers a picture she had taken on her phone, as part of her escape plan. The picture was of two of her little sisters, bodies caked with dirt and grime, chained to a bedpost. The officers then immediately headed to 160 Muir Woods Road for a welfare check.
As the police arrived at the house, Louise ordered for the children to unchain the two girls who were still attached to the bedpost. She then answered the door and acted completely shocked that the police were there. The officers rushed into the house past Louise and they were immediately hit with the putrid stench of human waist. They walked into one room and found Jonathan still chained up. The officers freed the boy and he acted like it was no big deal. After all this is how he knew life to be. The two girls who had been unchained were seen by the officers, the chains had rubbed all of the dirt off of the girls’ arms and there was just a stripe of clean white skin surrounded by the dirt and grime on the rest of their small emaciated bodies. 11 year old Julissa told the officers that as soon as she had seen the flashy lights and heard a knock at the door, she knew Jordan had made it and that she had saved them all.
David Turpin was led from the house in handcuffs, the man wept uncontrollably. Louise Turpin walked out of the house with her head high, completely stoic. The police investigations team flooded the house, it would take them weeks to go through the house of horrors. Agents working for Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services soon arrived to render assistance to the 13 Turpin children. The children were placed on IV drips from the medics, they were given antibiotics, vitamins and nutrients and blood samples were taken from each child including the baby, to make sure that they were all biologically Turpin children.
Deputy Manuel Campos did the initial interview with Jordan Turpin, he realized during this interview that even though Jordan was 17, her mental abilities were way below that number, she presented as possibly around 10 years old, physically and mentally. She did not understand a lot of words and the deputy would have to find different ways to say things for her to understand. She told him about their life at home, the abuse they suffered. Deputy Campos said, “Her hair appeared to be unwashed. She appeared to not bathe regularly. She had a lot of dirt on her skin, it appeared to be caked on.” He asked her if she had any physical injuries. Jordan told him she had a small cut on her foot, but when she tried to show it to him, there was so much dirt covering it, the officer could not see anything.
Jordan told him how they went to what her father called private school, but that she never had lessons. She knew she had a lesson for the first grade when she was 15 or 16, but then mother was bored by it and gave up. Jordan knew that it was the first month of the new year, but she had no idea what that month was called. Jordan revealed that she had only ever been to a doctor once and that she had never seen a dentist. At the end of the interview, the deputy asked Jordan if she had ever been sexually abused, she then told him about the time when Father pulled her pants down and forced her onto his lap.
Jolinda was in a separate interview room, speaking with Detective Thomas Salisbury. Jolinda told about how she had learned up to the letter I, and a few years later she continued learning up to the letter T. Jolinda also did not understand the difference between a state and a country, she believed that Texas was a country. Jonathan spoke with the investigators and told them about his abuse and being chained up for various lengths of time for the past 6 and a half years. He also told them that he believed he had finished up to grade 3, but he was not sure. When they asked him how many grades, he thought there were, Jonathan guessed 10.
After each one of the Turpin children were interviewed, they were allowed to shower and each one was given a brand new, clean outfit to put on. The dirty old cloths were collected as evidence. The investigation team laid out brown butcher paper and they splayed the clothing out to be photographed. The clothing was extremely heavy and soiled. Some of the female children’s underwear was covered in dried blood, and all of the cloths smelled extremely foul. The children had been wearing these cloths everyday for the past seven months.
After this the Turpin children were slit up. The six minor children were sent to the Riverside University Hospital and the seven adults were sent to the Corona Regional Medical Center. The 7 adults had a 5150-hold placed on them. While a 5150 is typically used for psychotic breaks, violet acts against others, or threats of suicide; in this case it was used because the officials did not think even the adult aged children could take care of themselves.
David and Louise Turpin were both interviewed and both gave official initial statements. The two were then transported to the Robert Presley Detention Center. They were both booked on 9 counts of torture and 10 counts of child endangerment. They had bail set at $9 million per person.
The children are now at the hospital and being taken care of by people who actually care, for the first time in their lives. Workers in the hospital went above and beyond for these kids, they went out and purchased new cloths for the adult kids out of their own pockets. Most of them were so small they still had to buy them children’s sizes.
The children began learning basic life skills like how to properly brush their teeth and other basic hygiene. The kids encountered everyday items which they had never seen, like fresh fruit and vegetables. When one nurse tried to give one kid a fresh tomato, they actually acted scared of the food, until the nurse took a bite of it to show it was safe.
The following Monday after the rescue was a national holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The thirteen children began examinations by the medical staff to assess their mental and physical states. Only one of the thirteen children was at the proper weight, and that was the two-year-old baby Janna. The rest of the children were severely malnourished, they had nerve damage and mental impairment, brought on from years of neglect and abuse. The oldest child, Jennifer, now 29 years old was five foot 3 inches and weighed only 80 lbs. She was also diagnosed with a severe malnutrition, a B12 deficiency which had resulted in neuropathy, causing numbness and tingling in Jennifer’s extremities.
Jennifer and the 24-year-old Jessica will most likely never be able to have children of their own. Several of the children were also suffering from cachexia, which is when the muscles begin wasting away. Joshua was 5’8” and weighed 115 lbs. 22-year-old Jonathan was found to have skeletal abnormalities, brough about by the years in chains and cages. Johnathan was 5’7” and weighed 100 lbs., almost 50 pounds under weight. 11-year-old Julissa was 15 pounds under weights, she was also anemic and had suffered severe muscle wastage, when doctors measured the girl’s upper arm, it had the circumference similar to the size of a four-month-old-baby.
The youngest boy, James, at 15, had difficulty walking and he had scoliosis so bad that his spine was in the shape of an S. James also told the doctor that he thought about killing small animals and that he believed his dreams could predict the future. Jordan was also sent to a speech therapist, her voice was still so childlike, at 17 years old, that she was sometimes difficult to understand.
Back home in Tennessee, Elizabeth was notified over her Facebook account as to what was happening with her sister in California. Elizabeth was shocked and called her younger sister Teresa, and told her to turn on the news.
Kent Ripley, the Elvis impersonator from all 3 of the Turpin vow renewal ceremonies said, “I would never have thought this and I feel so bad for the children.” That very night, all videos from the Turpin ceremonies were removed from the Chapel’s website.
The fact that David Turpin was able to keep what was happening inside of his secluded family for so by registering as a private school soon became quite a story. The California Department of Education claimed no responsibilities for what had transpired. However, in the seven years that David Turpin had registered a private school, the state had never once performed the required inspections from the fire marshal, not one single year.
Betty Turpin, David’s now 82-year-old mother, spoke to the press and she expressed her shock at what was happening. After all, Betty said, “This is a highly respectable family who had annual passes to Disneyland.” That may be one of the craziest assertions I have ever heard, they have annual passes to Disney, so they must be good people.
The following Wednesday Good Morning America flew Elizabeth to New York to be interviewed by Robin Roberts.
The community began coming together, in an outpouring of love for the 13 Turpin children. The Corona Chamber of Commerce donated a bag of new clothing for each child, they also opened a fund which raised over $200,000 for the kids. Nurses at the hospital pooled money to buy each of the siblings a new pair of shoes. The kids loved their new shoes so much that the first night they had them, the kids slept in the shoes, in fear that they may be taken away during the night.
That Thursday morning the Riverside County DA held a press conference to read the list of current charges against David and Louise Turpin.
12 counts each of Torture, against all children except baby Janna
12 counts each of false imprisonment
7 counts each of cruelty to a dependent adult
6 counts each of willful child cruelty
One charge against David Turpin for committing a lewd act by force on his daughter Jordan when she was under 14
He then went on to describe all of the torture and abuse, suffered by these kids, under the iron fists of their parents. Two hours later the couple were arraigned. Both pleaded not guilty to all charges. Bail was set at $9 million for Louise and $12 million David. The prosecution added additional charges to David for perjury, because of his filing for private school status and his assertion that his children were being educated.
The seven adult aged children were relocated from the hospital to a supervised living facility. The six minor children would be split up between two separate foster homes.
On February 22nd, 2019, both David and Louise returned to court and changed their not-guilty pleas to guilty, for one count of torture, 3 counts of willful child cruelty, 4 counts of false imprisonment and six counts of cruelty to an adult dependent. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Experts believe they will never receive parole due to the severity of the crime, making it effectively a life sentence.
Five of the younger children, who were housed in a foster care, claimed that the adults who were fostering them were abusive. In October of 2019, amid these allegations of abuse, this same foster family was allowed to legally adopt the children. This foster family has been arrested and charged with abusing many children in their care, including the Turpin children.
In early 2020, the Riverside County Deputy District Attorney said that, "Some of the children are living independently, living in their own apartment, and have jobs and are going to school. Some volunteer in the community. They go to church.”
An investigative reporter did a story, following up on the Turpin children in 2021. This reporter stated that some of the Turpin children have now been neglected by the Riverside County social services department. Some of the children are now homeless and none of the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which had been donated to the children’s funds, was available for the kids to use. This money was in a trust controlled by the court-appointed guardian. Joshua Turpin said that the guardian would not even give him enough money to buy a new bike. Diane Sawyer interviewed Jordan Turpin on 20/20 and Jordan said that she was released from her foster home with no warning, she had acquired no life skills, she had no way of gaining housing and she had no idea how to get a job, gain food or healthcare. The Riverside County has hired a private law firm to investigate all of these allegations.
After David and Louise Turpin received their sentencing, their oldest daughter Jennifer addressed the court.
“My parents took my whole life from me, but now I’m taking my whole life back. I saw my dad change my mom. They almost changed me, but I realized what was happening. I fought to become the person I am. I’m a fighter, I’m strong, and I’m shooting through life like a rocket.”
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