The 13 children of infamous California couple Louise Turpin and David Turpin escaped their “House of Horrors,” but their struggles continue long after their parents’ criminal cases came and went. State agencies allegedly left the survivors in the lurch as they try to acclimate to real life, and one former state official is accused of refusing to help them with basic things.
Vanessa Espinoza, who worked as a deputy public guardian assigned to the adult children, was unwilling to help the children with things like teaching them to use public transit, crossing the street safely, and how to access medical and dental benefits, according to a recent profile from 20/20. The eldest brother Joshua said that Espinoza would tell him to “just go Google it” when he asked for help. The kids were also allegedly denied legitimate access to trust money meant for them.
Mother and father Turpin were sentenced to 25 to life for abusing 12 of the kids, chaining some of them to their beds and forcing them to life in squalid conditions. The siblings, then aged 2 to 29, were malnourished and dirty, authorities said. There were details of physical and sexual abuse. One of the daughters said Louise Turpin choked her for watching a Justin Bieber video, and that David Turpin sexually abused her since age 12.
In a sense, the Turpin siblings were sheltered but in a nightmarish and warped kind of way. Daughter Jordan Turpin’s inexperience with the outside world was all too apparent when she, then 17 years old, fled the home in 2018 and got help from authorities. As heard on 911 audio, she gave a number intended to be her home address, but which the dispatcher interpreted as her zip code. Jordan said she did not know what “medication” was. A deputy later asked if she had injuries. She asked what “injuries” were. Authorities at the time said she was “slightly emaciated” and appeared to be 10 years old. Jordan, now 21 years old, said she stood in the road at the time because she did not know that she was supposed to be on the sidewalk.
Joshua, speaking later in court, said he learned how to ride a bike, how to swim, and how to eat healthy since leaving his parents.
But stage agencies were accused of failing the children. The children did not have a place to live or stay at times, did not have enough food at times, did not know how to manage money, and were sometimes without housing, requiring them to couch surf, according to Melissa Donaldson, Director of Victim Services at the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. One of the adults was assaulted, and the children have been living in unsafe neighborhoods, she said.
Jordan Turpin told 20/20 she was released from extended foster care without warning, and that she and one of her brothers do not have a place to stay.
All of this is happening despite $600,000 that was originally raised for the siblings, the show said. Most of that was sent to a trust overseen by a court, according to 20/20, but the Turpin children said that the funds are difficult to access. Espinoza, for example, allegedly would deny simple requests, such as requesting money for a bike.
Donaldson told the show that legitimate requests were turned down.
Separate from Espinoza, some of the minor children also allegedly faced more abuse in the foster care system.
Espinoza, who reportedly stopped working for the county last August, denied wrongdoing in a Facebook post, but said that she could not share much information because of confidentiality of the case. She said she had resigned as deputy public guardian for a reason she said had nothing to do with this case or failure to perform her duties. From the statement:
…any and all funds received on behalf of those individuals, have always been accounted for to the court, the individuals’ court appointed attorneys, the Riverside County Public Guardian’s County Counsel, Public Guardian’s upper management, and the individuals themselves.
She said she had no issued cooperating with an independent investigation, “submitting any and all necessary proof to the law firm or departments charged with this investigation, so that my name can be cleared from these false allegations.”
[Screenshot via 20/20]
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