The 17-year-old daughter of a Perris couple accused of forcing 12 of their 13 children to live in isolation and deprivation told a 911 dispatcher the night of her escape that her two younger sisters were “chained up to their beds,” shackled so tightly their bodies were bruised, according to testimony Wednesday in the defendants’ preliminary hearing.
“They chain us up if we do things we’re not supposed to,” Jordan Turpin said in a Jan. 14 conversation with a 911 dispatcher that was played in court. “Sometimes, my sisters wake up and start crying (because of the pain). I called you so you can help my sisters.”
The girl, who acknowledged not receiving more than a first-grade education, stumbled over the spelling of her own surname several times while trying to read her home address on an envelope. She could not distinguish between the ZIP code and the house number for her family’s Muir Woods Road residence.
“We don’t do school,” Jordan said. “My mother says we’re private schooled, but we really don’t do school.”
David Allen Turpin, 56, and his wife, 49-year-old Louise Ann Turpin, are each charged with 12 counts of torture and false imprisonment, as well as nine counts of child abuse and seven counts of cruelty to a dependent adult. David Turpin is additionally charged with eight counts of perjury and an allegation of lewd acts on a child under 14 years old. Louise Turpin is also charged with one count of assault resulting in great bodily injury.
Wednesday’s hearing before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz will determine if there’s sufficient evidence to warrant a trial. The Turpins would both face 94 years to life in prison if convicted. Each is being held in lieu of $12 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.
Along with playing the 911 recording of dispatchers’ conversation with Jordan Turpin, the prosecution called sheriff’s Deputy Manuel Campos to testify regarding his Jan. 14 interview with the girl.
“Her hair appeared to be unwashed. There was dirt caked on her skin. The odor emitting from her body was that of someone who doesn’t bathe,” Campos testified. “She told me there was a scar on her foot, but because she was so dirty, you couldn’t see it.”
The deputy said the girl admitted “being scared to death” about fleeing her home, but felt desperate to get out and leapt from an open window.
“She said she couldn’t stay there and watch her two sisters chained up, crying and hurting,” he said.
Jordan told the deputy she couldn’t bear hearing her mother call one of the girls “the devil and worse than the devil” for crying out in pain.
“Jordan said she believed in God and was a good Christian, and hearing her mother say `devil’ really bothered her a lot,” Campos testified.
He said the teenager, whose mind seemed like that of a small child, had been planning an escape for two years and was ultimately able to procure a mobile phone discarded by her older brother, Joshua. She used it to snap pictures of her younger sisters allegedly chained to beds. The phone had been deactivated, but the 911 feature was still accessible, enabling Jordan to make the call to the sheriff’s department, according to testimony.
Campos said the victim told him that her sisters had been shackled to their beds because they were caught by Louise Turpin snatching candy from the kitchen — verboten under the house “rules.”
According to the deputy, the girl described a compulsory sleep schedule of 20 hours a day and a middle-of-the-night meal — combination “lunch and dinner” — that consisted of an unremitting diet of peanut butter sandwiches, chips and microwave-heated burritos.
“Jordan told me she’d been eating peanut butter sandwiches for four or five years,” Campos said. “She said she couldn’t eat them any more because she’d start to gag and throw up.”
The girl’s only exercise was pacing back and forth in the room she shared with her two younger sisters, according to Campos.
He said the filth and stench in the bedroom was so overwhelming that the teenager told him she often couldn’t breathe and had to stick her head out the window for relief.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in January the siblings were allowed to shower only once a year.
The siblings were virtually imprisoned, according to testimony, and the only time they were free to leave their assigned quarters was when both parents were out of the house.
He said the girl alleged her father, the family breadwinner and aerospace engineer, once yanked off her pants and sat her naked on his lap, trying to kiss her until her mother started into the living room, at which point he released her and told her she would be in trouble for divulging what happened.
The girl told the 911 dispatcher her mother “doesn’t like us,” and she alleged to Campos that Louise Turpin had choked her after learning she’d watched a Justin Bieber video, telling the victim while gripping her throat, “Do you want to die and go to hell?”
The children, whose ages range from 2 to 29, are in the care of county Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services staff. Most of them were hospitalized in January for treatment of malnourishment and other disorders, but they have since been released and placed in undisclosed residential facilities, according to county officials. Only the youngest appeared to be in good health.
Sheriff’s investigators said the family moved to Murrieta in 2010, then to Perris in 2014. They had previously resided in Fort Worth, Texas.
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