7 revelations from Turpin kids who were ‘beaten 'til we bled’, locked in cages and forced to live on ketchup & ice cubes

WHEN the 13 Turpin children were rescued from their abusive parents, three years ago, the extent of their suffering shocked the world.

The malnourished siblings, who ranged from 29 to three, were locked in cages and chained to beds by parents Louise and David Turpin, beaten until they bled, sexually abused and starved, over a period  of almost two decades.


The alarm was finally raised in August 2018 when 17-year-old Jordan Turpin managed to slip out of a window of their Californian home and raise the alarm.

David, now 60, and Louise, 53, were jailed for life in February 29 on counts of child cruelty, false imprisonment and torture.

Now, in an ABC special with Diane Sawyer, Jordan and older sister Jennifer, 33, have revealed the horrific extent of their abuse – and their joy at their eventual escape from the house of horrors.

Here, we reveal the shocking revelations from the brave sisters in the show, which airs in the US tonight.

‘Stench’ of filthy house and violent mood swings

As the oldest child, Jennifer remembers living in a nice neighbourhood in Texas, where her father worked as an electrical engineer and Louise as a stay-at-home mum.

But she grew up around filth and squalor – a house strewn with rubbish, faeces and mould – and was at the mercy of her mother’s violent mood swings. 

“I never knew which side I was going to get of her,” she tells Diane Sawyer. “If I was going to ask her a question, [is] she going to call me stupid or something… and then yank me across the floor or [is] she going to be nice and answer my question.”

She was shunned at school because she wore the same clothes every day, and didn’t wash.

“They called me skinny bones and acted like they didn’t want to be around me,” she said. “I probably smelled. But I didn’t realize at the time I smelled, but that stench clings to you… because we would literally live in houses piled with trash.”

She was taken out of school in year 3.

Abuse was justified by the Bible – and kids were ‘devil’

After moving to a more isolated home in Rio Vista, Texas, when Jennifer was 11, the couple had more children and the neglect turned to physical abuse.

The evil couple would quote the Bible to justify the frequent beatings.

“They loved to point out things in Deuteronomy, saying that, ‘We have the right to do this to you.’ … that they had the right to even kill us if we didn’t listen,” she said.

David used belts and sticks to whip the children. Jennifer recalled one moment when she said her father picked her up, feet off the floor, and slammed her into a wall.

“I knew he [was] saying that I was the devil,” she said. “I’m just looking at him like, ‘what did I do?’”

Children were beaten ‘til we bled’

Both parents would attack the children for the most minor misdemeanour – with Jennifer revealing that even crayoning outside the lines of a colouring book would make her mother pull her hair or throw her across the room.

On one occasion, a child was thrown down the stairs for daring to go into her mother’s bedroom.

Jennifer says she spent her life in terror.

“I was afraid to do one little thing wrong,” Jennifer Turpin said. “If I did one little thing wrong, I was going to be beaten… until I bled.”

Jennifer was forced to cage younger siblings 

When Jennifer was 18, the evil couple made 10 of the children move into a trailer in a remote part of their property, taking only their youngest two before driving away.

They brought meagre groceries once a week, or sometimes fortnightly, leaving the children starving.

“I would try to stretch it out and make sure that we at least had stuff to eat each day of the week,” Jennifer said.

Jordan, who was just six, added: “There was a lot of starving. I would have to figure out how to eat. I would either eat ketchup or mustard or ice.”

I was on the brink of suicide. I wanted to just end it all. All of my pain, everything.

Using an old-style flip phone, Louise and David gave Jennifer “instructions”, which included locking rebellious siblings in cages, meant as dog kennels.

“You’re torn, you don’t know what to do,” she said. “I was on the brink of suicide. I wanted to just end it all. All of my pain, everything.”

When the family moved to California, in 2010, neighbours found filth and faeces throughout the house and ropes tied to children's beds as if used for restraint.

Louise taunted kids with toys and food they couldn’t touch

In her new home, Louise racked up huge credit card debt and hoarded children’s clothes, games and toys which she would never give to the children.

While their parents binged on fast food, and taunted them with freshly baked pumpkin pies which they were forbidden to touch, Jennifer says the children ate once a day – getting a peanut butter sandwich, a frozen burrito or chips.

When they were eventually rescued the children were so malnourished that they were all assumed to be under 18, although seven were adults.

Jennifer weighed just 5st 12lbs. An 11-year-old child was so malnourished that her arm circumference was the equivalent of a 4-and-a-half month old baby, investigators said.

Justin Bieber played part in escape 

The children’s only view of the outside world was the occasional film they watched in secret, when their parents were out and in 2015, Jordan found an old smartphone and discovered Justin Bieber’s music videos.

“I don’t know where we would be if we didn’t watch Justin Bieber,” she said. “I started realizing that there is a different whole world out there… I wanted to experience that.”

After watching more videos, she began posting videos of herself singing on social media and got a response from one of her posts, asking why she was always inside and awake at night.

“I did tell him that I didn’t really go to school, and I wasn’t allowed to go in the backyard or front yard and that I’m always kept inside, and I told him how we eat and how we’re not allowed to get out of bed,” she said. 

I thought I was going to die that day. I kept having nightmares that… she was going to kill me.

“He was like, ‘This isn’t right, you should call the cops’ … I was so happy to hear him say that because I was like, ‘I was right. I was right that this situation is bad.’”

When Louise found out about the Bieber videos, she attacked Jordan and began choking her.

“I thought I was going to die that day,” she said. “After that whole day happened, I kept having nightmares that… she was going to kill me.”

Jordan began planning her escape.

Girls were chained to the bed for four months

By the time Jordan raised the alarm, the Turpins had been regularly chaining their children to bunk beds.

Jordan Turpin revealed she was in a room where two of her little sisters had been chained to their beds for as long as four months and their agony spurred her to get help.

“I was so scared that one of us was actually going to die,” Jordan said.

Jordan worked on her escape plan for about two years and, knowing she needed proof, took pictures of her chained sisters on an older brother’s deactivated phone.

Finally, in January 2018, she made her move after hearing her raging mother screaming about moving the family to Oklahoma. 

Jordan escaped through a window, ran to the street and called 911. Less than two hours later, their parents were arrested.

'Heavenly' taste of freedom 

Jennifer tells the show that after waking up in hospital, the day after the arrest, she “put on music and danced.”

Jordan recalls going to the park with two of her sisters.

“I was so excited because I could smell the grass,” she said. “I was like, ‘How could heaven be better than this? … Oh my gosh, this is so free, this is life.’”

Neither girl would discuss their siblings, to protect their privacy but Jordan Turpin revealed she received her high school diploma in one year, despite having had no previous schooling, and she is now at college.

Jennifer is working at a local restaurant, writing Christian pop music and hoping to become an author. 

“I’m so thankful just to walk… [to] take an hour-long walk with my music,” she said. “These little things I think… are things that people take for granted.”

Escape from a House of Horror – A Diane Sawyer Special Event – airs on 20/20 on November 19.

The house in California where the 13 children were finally rescued



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