Six of the 13 children victimized in Riverside County’s most notorious parental child abuse case filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the county and one of its foster care agencies for placing them in another allegedly abusive household, where their attorneys say they were subjected to sexual assaults, psychological torment and other offenses.
“The 13 Turpin children endured some of the most sickening child abuse the county has ever seen,” Los Angeles attorney Elan Zektser, who is representing two of the adult children, said. “After these vulnerable children were freed (from their parents), they were placed by the county through ChildNet into a known abusive foster home. It is beyond shocking that the county and ChildNet let these kids get horrifically abused once again. Our communities should be appalled.”
Zektser teamed with another litigator, Roger Booth, who is representing four of the younger kids, in filing civil complaints seeking unspecified damage awards from the county and Long Beach-based ChildNet on behalf of their clients in Riverside County Superior Court.
“We deeply care about the safety and well-being of every single child under our care,” according to a county Department of Public Social Services statement. “Our hearts go out to the Turpin siblings. Any instance when a child is harmed is heartbreaking. We continue to evaluate our practices with a critical eye and are committed to understanding and addressing the root cause. This includes expanding the availability of quality and safe placements for all children in foster care.”
ChildNet did not respond to a request for comment.
The Turpin children’s parents, David Turpin, 59, and Louise Turpin, 52, were each sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison in 2019 after admitting multiple child cruelty counts.
The pair operated what prosecutors and investigators described as a “house of horrors,” keeping some of the children caged or chained most times of the day, forcing them to subsist on peanut butter sandwiches and burritos, making them sleep up to 20 hours daily, and allowing them to shower only once a year. There was also physical abuse with injuries.
The 13 victims, whose ages now range from 5 to 32, were made wards of the state and came under the supervision of county Child Protective Services. The agency initiated a process of finding foster care homes for them in January 2018, relying on the services of ChildNet, also known as Foster Family Network.
Six of the victims were placed in the Perris home of Marcelino Camacho Olguin, 63, his wife, Rosa Armida Olguin, 58, and their adult daughter, Lennys Giovanna Olguin, 37.
The trio were charged last November with nearly a dozen offenses, including child cruelty, false imprisonment and witness intimidation for alleged mistreatment of the Turpin youths, all of whom carry the initials “J.T.” because their first names begin with the letter “J.” Marcelino Olguin was additionally charged with multiple counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 years old.
The joint complaints allege that there were “credible reports of abuse and neglect” at the Olguin home, but ChildNet and the county failed to pay heed.
The plaintiffs allege that from April 2018 onward, they were targeted in relentless forms of mental and physical torment, and that one of the older Turpin children “had conversations with defendants’ social workers in which she conveyed information and asked for help.”
Though court documents didn’t identify her, the whistleblower was later confirmed publicly to be now-20-year-old Jordan Turpin, who also alerted authorities to her parents’ abusive behavior in January 2018 after she leaped from a bedroom window.
According to Zektser’s complaint, several of the Turpin girls were objects of lascivious attention from Marcelino Olguin, with him “grabbing and fondling (their) buttocks, legs, breasts” and “kissing them on their mouths and making sexually suggestive comments.”
There were instances of the Olguins “pulling their hair, hitting them with a belt and striking their heads,” according to the complaint.
The document recited the following other alleged abuse: “making the plaintiffs sit by themselves, sometimes outside, for many hours at a time”; “making plaintiffs sit in a circle and recount, in detail, the horrors that they had experienced while living with their parents”; “verbally abusing plaintiffs, cursing at them, and telling them that they were worthless and should commit suicide”; “forcing them to eat until they began to vomit,” then compelling them “to eat their own vomit.”
The Olguins further allegedly told the children that “nobody would ever love them,” according to Zektser’s complaint.
The plaintiffs said the alleged abuse continued until the spring of 2021, when a sheriff’s investigation resulted in the Olguins’ arrests. They’re out of custody on six-figure bonds, awaiting trial.
The six siblings have either since been emancipated or placed in alternate foster care homes, where no problems have been reported.
Zektser and Booth point to a train of alleged failings on the part of CPS and ChildNet. The thrust of the joint civil actions is that the county and ChildNet were grossly negligent and irresponsible.
Difficulties faced by the Turpin siblings were highlighted during an ABC documentary broadcast in November. It featured District Attorney Mike Hestrin, who fumed that the siblings were “living in crime-ridden neighborhoods. There’s money for their education. They can’t access it. This is unimaginable to me.”
It ultimately came to light that the county Office of the Public Guardian, in addition to CPS, hadn’t adequately addressed the adult Turpin children’s needs. That was one of the factors that prompted the Board of Supervisors to hire former federal Judge Stephen Larson to carry out an $868,000, nine-month probe, the findings of which were published earlier this month.
The inquiry involved a sweeping examination of county welfare agencies in general, with 93 pages dedicated to the Turpins. However, most of that was blacked out due to apparent privacy concerns.
The probe uncovered that nearly $2 million in private donations were made after the Turpin case received widespread media coverage, with people sending varying amounts to help the victims. The money was placed in trust with different entities.
The disposition of the funds remains a source of concern. However, some of the money has been distributed to the siblings.