“That’s me!” Jonathan Turpin exclaimed, thrusting his hand into the air in a near-empty courtroom after being introduced by his attorney to Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fernandez.
The appearance at the Historic Courthouse in Riverside on Friday, July 28, was a rare one by any of the 13 Turpin children in open Probate court since their rescue in January 2018 from years of torture and neglect by their parents in their Perris home.
In April 2019, David and Louise Turpin were each sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison following guilty pleas to six counts of dependent adult abuse, four counts of false imprisonment, three counts of child endangerment and one count of torture.
The plight of the 13 children, whose ages ranged from 2 to 29 at the time, came to light and shocked the country on Jan. 14, 2018, when 17-year-old Jordan grabbed a brother’s deactivated cell phone, snuck out a bedroom window and called 911. Riverside County sheriff’s deputies arrived to find two of the children shackled to their beds. Their developments were cognitively and physically stunted and they told stories of being punished for “stealing” food and being prohibited from showering but once per year.
They were schooled at home but few received anything more than a first-grade education.
Jonathan Turpin is about 28 years old, but like many of his siblings who suffered from malnourishment, he looked Friday like he was much younger. He still has thin facial features. He wore a plumb-colored jacket, grey slacks and black socks and shoes. His black hair was short and slick.
Turpin is one of the two siblings who remain under conservatorship because of health issues. He was in court Friday to participate in a discussion about a Probate investigator’s report on his health. But because the discussion would be published in the court transcript, which is public record, Turpin’s attorney, Andrew Beechko of Brown White & Osborn, and Fernandez decided to seal the report and ask Beechko to submit comments on the report in September.
“I want to wish you good health,” Fernandez told Turpin.
After the hearing, Beechko sat with Turpin and discussed some financial documents. Turpin gave Beechko a warm hug and left with a county employee wearing a Riverside University Health System polo shirt. When a reporter approached Turpin for an interview, the employee would not let Turpin speak for himself and said “He has nothing to say to you.”
The hearing dealt with a number of other topics, including securing benefits for Jennifer and Jordan Turpin. Fernandez discussed CalAble, a savings and investment plan offered by the state to people who suffered from disabilities before age 26. But Beechko said the sisters don’t want to declare themselves disabled.
“They want to go on with their lives,” Beechko told the judge.
Beechko, Fernandez and Dennis Sandoval, trustee for the Special Needs Trusts that hold money for the Turpins, also discussed sealed probate documents that were to have been redacted before their public release following a petition by ABC News. Beechko had been tasked with obscuring certain parts of the documents that raised privacy issues, but he said Friday that he had not yet been granted access to them.
Fernandez asked Beechko to submit a proposed order within two weeks that would release the documents to the attorney. The next hearing was scheduled for Oct. 13.
The ordeals for the Turpins are not over.
On April 4, three members of a Perris family are scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on felony charges that they abused children, including some of the Turpin minors, who were placed in their care by Riverside County and Foster Family Agency ChildNet.
The county is attempting to fix continuing problems in its Department of Social Services that were highlighted in a report written by retired federal Judge Stephen Larson that made recommendations for improvements. The county commissioned the report after Jennifer and Jordan Turpin complained in an ABC News 20/20 special that they lacked access to housing, food, money and services.
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