Riverside County official expresses “horror” at mistreatment of Turpin siblings, promising “full” investigation
Riverside County, California’s top elected official on Tuesday said she was dismayed at the abuse the 13 Turpin children suffered over the years, stressing that the county was determined to investigate allegations that the brothers and sisters reportedly continued to be abused after being placed in county care nearly four years ago.
Riverside Board Chair Karen Spiegel made her first public comment since the plight of many Turpin children was detailed at Diane Sawyer’s special “20/20” event on ABC, “Escape From A House Of Horror, âwhich aired on November 19.
âLike many of you, I watched the recent ’20/20′ special on Turpin kids. The reaction for most of us was horror, disgust. What happened to those kids during that time was something none of us would ever want our children to experience, âsaid Karen Spiegel, chair of the Riverside County Oversight Board, at a town hall meeting.
Spiegel stressed that the county remains committed to supporting its independent inquiry into Riverside County’s care for the Turpin children, as well as that of all vulnerable children and adults in the county’s care.
âIt is of the utmost importance to conduct a comprehensive and independent assessment of our county systems and the way we provide care and service,â said Spiegel.
In 2018, the Turpin children escaped from their Riverside County home, where they were abused and deprived of food, sleep, hygiene, education and health care at the hands of their parents.
An ABC investigation explored claims that the county’s social service systems, for dependent children and adults, let down the Turpin children, then aged 2 to 29, after their rescue.
Many siblings “still lived in poverty,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin told ABC News this summer.
“It’s unimaginable to me – that we could have the worst case of child abuse I’ve ever seen, and then we can’t bring it together to meet their basic needs,” Hestrin told Sawyer. .
Despite a first wave of support in the weeks after their parents’ arrests in 2018, some of the Turpin siblings and their lawyers told ABC News that the siblings still struggled to access premier products. necessities, including food and shelter.
âAt the moment, I don’t really have a way to get food at the moment,â Jordan Turpin, 21, told Sawyer at the time of the interview in July.
However, during Tuesday’s meeting, Spiegel suggested that there is “always more to a story”.
âLike a lot of things we see in the media and on the internet, I have also had to take a step back and caution myself not to be totally judgmental about certain facts. There is always more to a story. And sometimes there is more to a story. , you get what they want you to hear, and only that, nothing with the backup, âSpiegel said.
When approached by ABC News about the allegations after a Nov. 9 meeting of the county supervisory board, Spiegel declined to discuss details of what has happened to the Turpin children since their rescue.
âWell, I’m not – I don’t have the information you’re looking for,â Spiegel told ABC News at the county meeting last month. “We are still at the investigation stage so I have nothing to share with you.”
The charges ultimately prompted the county to launch an independent investigation into the custody of the Turpin siblings, as well as other vulnerable children and adults, all of whom are under court oversight.
In late October, the county appointed former U.S. District Judge Stephen G. Larson to lead the investigation, which is expected to be completed by March 31, 2022.
Larson served nearly 10 years on the bench in California, including three years in district court after being appointed by George W. Bush in 2006, according to his biography.
“My firm and I are fully committed to conducting a thorough and transparent review of these matters, as intended by this council, as well as the residents and citizens of Riverside County,” Larson told supervisors during a presentation at introduction Tuesday.
The law firm’s investigation has two main purposes, according to Larson.
The first is to âidentify and reviewâ the services provided to 13 siblings while they were in the care and supervision of the county. The second is to assess the quality of Riverside County’s services for all foster children and dependent adults.
âWe have to care about all of our children,â Spiegel said.
Larson praised the county for initiating the investigation, telling the board that “the fact that the county promptly requested an independent review and that you demand swift and meaningful action underscores for me in this county your commitment. to address these critical issues directly, openly and effectively. “
Larson said his team has “complete autonomy to pursue all relevant investigative leads in order to answer critical questions that our investigation will reveal.”
âI want you to know that the board is ready to provide all the resources and leave nothing behind,â Spiegel said, adding that she expects Larson to act as a neutral party in the investigation.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the board also approved the creation of an ad hoc committee to assess the improvement of inter-ministerial systems for the protection of children and vulnerable adults.
According to a county representative, the committee will receive regular status reports and updates from Larson LLP, ensure full and complete access to all relevant information to support the investigation and make recommendations to the full council of monitoring of political directives, system changes. and improvements in service delivery.
Michelle Mendez of ABC News contributed to this report.