In 2018, David and wife Louise Turpin became household names after one of their 13 children escaped their family home — described as a “house of horrors” — in Perris, California. Daughter Jordan, then 17, crawled through a window and called 911 on her parents, exposing a life of horrific abuse and maltreatment. In a home covered with filth, mold, and garbage, the police found beaten and starved children, some of which were shackled onto beds.
In 2019, David and Louise pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts, including child cruelty and torture and false imprisonment. They were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, still remaining behind bars today. Now, sisters Jordan, 21, and Jennifer, 31, will recount their story in their first interview since their harrowing escape in a 20/20 exclusive, Escape From a House of Horror, with Diane Sawyer on Nov. 19.
Jennifer, who was 29 when police arrested her parents, is the oldest of the Turpin brood. While she’s largely kept to herself these last few years, she’ll break her silence along sister Jordan in the 20/20 exclusive. Below, five things to know about the eldest Turpin sibling.
Jennifer was the first to speak at her parents’ sentencing
During a court hearing in Riverside in April 2019, Jennifer was the first to read a statement against her parents. Despite the horrors she endured, the statement was full of hope, with the eldest Turpin child declaring that she’ll be taking her life back. “My parents took my whole life from me, but now I’m taking my life back,” she said, eliciting tears from her parents. “I saw my dad change my mom. They almost changed me.” Jennifer added, “I’m a fighter, and I’m strong. I’m shooting through life like a rocket.”
Jennifer armed sister Jordan with advice to plot their escape
In a preview for the upcoming 20/20 special, Jordan said she was emboldened to strategize an escape plan after two of her younger sisters had been chained to their beds for about four months. “I was so scared that one of us was actually going to die,” she said. “She was like, ‘We need to get out of here,’” Jennifer added. “So I gave her all the advice I knew, all the advice I could.” The plan was two years in the making, sped up by their mother’s announcement that they would soon move to Oklahoma. Jennifer told Diane, “The very next day we were moving. It was literally now or never.”
Jennifer once managed to run way from her parents
In the same preview, Jennifer revealed that she once managed to run away from her parents — but returned after one night because she was worried about the rest of her siblings. She recounted hitching a ride into town, where she tried to find a job and an apartment. Her minimal education made it difficult to fill out a job application, Jennifer said, adding that she ultimately returned to her family. She said of that dark time, “I was on the brink of suicide. I wanted to just end it all. All of my pain, everything.”
Jennifer’s first act of freedom involved dance
Following the arrest of her parents, Jennifer and her siblings were taken to a hospital. They received food, medical treatment, and clean clothing — basic life necessities that they had been deprived of for so long. Jennifer told Diane that as she looked around that hospital room that day, the realization of her freedom culminated in an unlikely form of action: dance. “Music was playing, I got up,” Jennifer recalled. “I made sure there was a little bit of a floor cleared out and I danced.”
Jennifer is an aspiring author who also writes music
Amidst her freedom, Jennifer told Diane that she wanted to be a published author. The eldest Turpin is currently working at a local restaurant, writing Christian pop music that she hopes to share soon on the side. Above all, though, Jennifer is reveling in the little things that most people take for granted, like taking a leisurely walk outside. “I’m so thankful just to walk, [to] take an hour-long walk with my music,” she said. “These little things I think are things that people take for granted.”