Calif. captives adapt to freedom with lasagna, 'Star Wars' and iPads
Couple accused of chaining children lived in Johnson County, Texas, for years. Footage also shows inside the former home. Courtesy WFAA. Courtesy WFAA
After years of alleged captivity and abuse inside their California family home, the seven adult Turpin siblings have been spending the last few weeks enjoying everyday activities — like eating lasagna, using iPads and watching Star Wars, their attorney says.
"Most of all, they’re looking forward to being independent and coming up with a game plan for their life," said Jack Osborn, whose law firm was appointed by the court to represent the older siblings. "They want to finish school, they want to have careers. They look forward to going out to movies and shopping and everything else people their age are doing."
The siblings were discovered on January 14 after one escaped and alerted authorities. It's not exactly clear when the seven adults siblings will be allowed to leave the hospital; their discharge process was delayed last week when they caught the flu, Osborn said. But each day they continue to grow stronger physically and emotionally.
They've shown significant improvement in their self-confidence and their physical and mental conditions over the past few weeks while being treated at Corona Regional Medical Center, Osborne said.
The attorney wouldn't comment on the six younger Turpin siblings, who are minors now being cared for at a separate Riverside County facility. Nor would Osborn comment on the criminal investigation involving their parents, David and Louise Turpin, who are charged with multiple counts of torture and child abuse.
"It’s been more like being on a cruise ship than at this hospital," said Osborn, who added the long-term plan is to keep the siblings together in Riverside County.
Hospital staff has been feeding them regularly and they enjoy lentil soup, lasagna and fish but, apparently, they're not fond of burritos.
They've been allowed to use iPads, go outside to play basketball and soccer and entertain themselves listening to CDs and reading books. Country music and books on nature and insects have been particular favorites, Osborn said.
And finally, they've been able to watch some of the most popular films over the last few years, including the Star Wars and Harry Potter series.
"They immediately identify with characters and our female clients love female characters in movies. They've really embraced those kinds of things," Osborn said. "My impression is a lot of the stuff is new to them,” Osborn said.
Riverside County Superior Court officials appointed Osborn's firm — which specializes in trust, estates, and wills — to represent the older Turpin siblings, ranging in age from 18 to 29.
Osborn said he is providing the first glimpses into their recovery process because his clients have expressed interest in thanking the public for their concerns and updating them on their status, he said.
Investigators say the 13 siblings, who range in age from 2 to 29, endured years of abuse that included starvation, being chained to beds, and being beaten for as little as getting water on their wrists while washing their hands. Most of them lacked proper education to the point they had never heard of police or medication, officials said.
David and Louise Turpin remain in custody after pleading not guilty to all charges and they face life in prison if convicted.
Investigators say the abuse dates back at least ten years to the time when the family was living in Texas. But stories from neighbors and former classmates have emerged indicating that children were being mistreated in the 1990s.
According to a former classmate, Taha Muntajibuddin, one of the siblings was bullied and mocked years ago by her third-grade peers in Fort Worth, Texas. She wore the same clothes every day and smelled like dirt, and worse.
More on the Turpins: Shackled, abused Turpin siblings given $535K for long-term care
Crowley Independent School District spokesman Anthony Kirchner confirmed Muntajibuddin and the girl attended classes but he didn’t know if there was ever an investigation into the girl’s condition since elementary school records are only maintained for five years after a student departs.
“We’re not able to access her records to see if authorities were contacted or if counselors met with parents or a teacher,” Kirchner said. “That’s what makes it tough for us to make any comment.”
In the following weeks, members of the public have visited the now vacant home to pay respects to the siblings. A makeshift memorial was set up outside the family's Perris home
The Turpin house has also attracted lookie-loos interested in taking selfies on the front lawn and peeking inside the windows.