For years, investigators believe, the Turpin kids lived in filth and isolation — with little access to food or hygiene — until their rescue from their family’s home in Perris, California, earlier this year.
Allegedly held captive in an intensifying cycle of abuse, most of David and Louise Turpin’s children were severely malnourished when police discovered them in squalid conditions on Jan. 14. Some of them were even chained to their beds. Only the youngest, a toddler, seemed somewhat spared and had not been underfed, according to prosecutors.
Authorities have said the ordeal came to an end when one of the children, a 17-year-old girl, crawled out of their brown stucco-and-stone house through a window and called 911 to report the alleged torture and imprisonment.
The girl’s escape — long planned — led to her parents’ arrest, the siblings’ hospitalization and a series of revelations about their bleak existence. The investigation was featured on the cover of PEOPLE and in headlines around the world.
As David and Louise were taken into custody and charged with multiple counts of abuse, false imprisonment and torture, their kids — ages 2 through 29 at the time — were sent to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment.
“It is quite extraordinary to have some freedom, really for the first time, and experience life outside the type of constraints they had experienced,” Caleb Mason, one of the attorneys for the seven adult Turpin siblings, told PEOPLE in March.
In the few months since the end of their alleged captivity, the Turpin children have already made new lives for themselves.
Their parents remain in custody as they await trial and they have pleaded not guilty. The prosecution has said the children will testify against them if the case goes to trial.
This account of the adult siblings’ journey toward freedom is based on statements from California authorities as well as PEOPLE’s interviews with those who have interacted with the Turpin family before and since the parents’ arrests in January.
‘They Have the Support System’
Following their rescue, the seven adult Turpin children were sent to the Corona Regional Medical Center for treatment, where they got to enjoy everyday activities most people don’t think twice about: using iPads, watching movies such as Star Wars and Harry Potter and trying new foods like lasagna.
When their parents were arrested, prosecutors have said, the children lacked “a basic knowledge of life.”
In the hospital, while they explored the ability to make decisions on their own, the adult siblings used the technology they had at their disposal to stay in touch with the six younger kids — who were at another location — via Skype.
Despite the siblings’ lack of interaction with people beyond their immediate family, medical staff found them to be “warm and loving,” according to Karen Spiegel, mayor of Corona, California, who worked closely with nurses at CRMC.