Jordan Turpin was 17 years old when she escaped imprisonment and helped rescue her 12 siblings from their abusive parents. Nearly four years later, the young woman is speaking out for the first time about her heroic actions in 2018 and her hopes for the future.
In an interview with Diane Sawyer for ABC’s latest episode of 20/20, Jordan shared that since her parents’ arrest, she’s earned a high school diploma and begun taking college courses. After graduation, she dreams of becoming an author or motivational speaker and living in a “beautiful house with a handsome husband.”
As for having children of her own, Jordan isn’t opposed, with one caveat: “When I have kids, I want to make sure I’m in a good place and have a good job, because I want to give my kids the best life ever.”
Jordan appeared on 20/20 alongside her oldest sibling, Jennifer Turpin, who also suggested that she won’t let her past circumstances hinder her future goals, which include making Christian pop music to inspire others.
“I want the last name Turpin to be remembered as a name of strength,” Jennifer said. “They are not weak, they’re not broken. They’ve got this.”
The 13 Turpin children were aged 2 to 29 and lived in Perris, Calif., at the time that they were rescued. Their parents, David and Louise Turpin, kept them indoors in a home later dubbed the “House of Horrors,” where they were regularly beaten, starved and cut off from society. At times, children were chained up or put in cages for misbehaving.
On Jan. 14, 2018, Jordan and Jennifer heard their mother say that the family was moving to Oklahoma.
“If we went to Oklahoma, there was a big chance that some of us would have died,” Jordan said, noting that her siblings were too malnourished to make the journey — a detail supported by medical professionals, who said that some of the children were too frail to walk, according to ABC News.
Jordan decided that she had no time to waste. She took a deactivated cell phone she had found in the home, gathered photo evidence of her sisters chained to the bed, and snuck out a window to call 911 and get help.
After nervously sharing her story with authorities, police searched the Turpin home and found enough cause to take David and Louise into custody. In 2019, both parents were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to 14 felony counts including cruelty to an adult dependent, child cruelty, torture and false imprisonment.
“I was always terrified that if I called the cops or tried to escape, I would get caught, and then I knew I would die if I got caught,” Jordan said. “But at the end, when I saw all my younger siblings, I knew that’s what I had to do.”
Diane Sawyer’s exclusive 20/20 interview with the Turpin sisters aired Friday night on ABC News. The episode, titled “Escape from a House of Horror,” is now available for streaming on ABC News’ digital platforms and Hulu.
If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.