Freed California siblings feared opposing rundown housing

·3 min read

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Several adult children among the 13 siblings freed in 2018 from virtual imprisonment in their abusive parents’ Southern California home found themselves a year later feeling pressured by the county’s guardian to move to an apartment in disrepair in a crime-ridden area, court documents showed.

Court documents are slowly being released in Riverside County that were previously sealed in the disturbing case that attracted international attention when details emerged showing the parents shackled and starved their children for years.

In a 2019 court filing, an attorney for the adult children of David and Louise Turpin wrote that three of the siblings were taken to see the apartment by an employee for the Riverside County Public Guardian's office and were “fearful to object so they indicated that the apartment was okay with the expectation that other apartments would be viewed."

When they raised concern about the safety of the neighborhood, the agency said the lease was already signed and the only alternative would be to split up the siblings and place them in a board and care facility, according to the filing by attorney Jack Osborn, who represented the seven adult children after they were freed from their parents' home.

The Turpins were arrested more than four years ago after one of their children escaped from their their Perris, California, home and reported they had been shackled to beds, starved and held largely in isolation from the world. 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 the couple, who pleaded guilty to torture and abuse in 2019 and have been sentenced to life in prison.

The document release comes after ABC reported that Riverside County’s social service system failed in various instances to help the seven adult and six minor children transition to new lives. The county has hired a private law firm to look into the allegations.

Messages seeking comment were left for Osborn and the office of the Public Guardian, which is the county agency tasked with assisting adults unable to properly care for themselves or manage their finances. Brooke Federico, a spokeswoman for Riverside County, declined to discuss details of the case said the release of the court documents will assist with the law firm's review.

Not all court documents in the case have been unsealed. It was not immediately known whether the five adult children moved to the apartment described as “in a state of significant disrepair” in Osborn's filing, and if so, how long they stayed. In his filing, Osborn wrote that the Public Guardian's office said the apartment was going to be fixed.

But the account is similar to comments aired by two of the Turpin children in an interview last year with ABC and by Melissa Donaldson, Riverside County’s director of victim services, who said at times the children did not have a safe place to stay or enough food.

The comments were especially surprising because in the days after their release, the adult and minor children were taken to hospitals for treatment and donations and support poured in from around the world.

In a separate filing this year, Osborn raised questions about $1.2 million reportedly collected in donations to assist the siblings in the days and weeks after their release and how the one of the siblings who remains under a conservatorship with the Public Guardian can access these charities.

That sibling, in 2019, objected to being sent to a board and care facility rather than remaining with her family as they moved to the apartment, Osborn wrote at that time.

Her siblings contended that “immediate separation from her brothers and sisters will continue the trauma that she has suffered,” Osborn wrote, particularly since she never complained about the abuse and followed the house rules, which they believe “has resulted in some significant developmental issues.”

A few weeks later, the siblings dropped the objection so long as she had frequent contact with them, court papers showed.