DA says he spoke to ‘20/20’ about Turpins because Riverside County officials rebuffed him – San Bernardino Sun

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin went on national TV in summer 2021 to detail the troubles the Turpin adults were having in their post-rescue lives only after he grew frustrated that his internal efforts to solve them were continually rebuffed by “county officials” and others, he said this week.

Hestrin specifically cited “county counsel,” “social services” and the law firm of Brown White & Osborn that had been appointed by the court to ensure the needs of the seven Turpin adults, who had been placed in conservatorships, were met. Those seven, and six minor siblings, were freed from their Perris home in January 2018 after years of deprivation and torture by their parents, David and Louise Turpin, who are now serving prison sentences of 25 years to life.

Hestrin said he became aware that some of the adults said they were living in dangerous neighborhoods and having difficulty obtaining food and social services such as life-skills training. Hestrin said he spoke to county officials about this, but there were “impediments, denials and counterattacks,” Hestrin said.

The county Department of Social Services declined to comment on Hestrin’s statements, spokesman Gene Kennedy said. The county Public Guardian’s office did not respond to a request for comment. County spokesperson Brooke Federico could not be reached for comment Thursday.

But county CEO Jeff Van Wagenen said earlier this week that officials moved immediately after hearing Hestrin’s concerns.

“We brought all of the different players together in the room and started to work through some of the challenges that ultimately Larson found about communication, about coordination, about sharing information and we took steps to reduce, sort of eliminate, those barriers,” Van Wagenen said Tuesday.

According to Hestrin, in some instances county officials told their employees not to talk to the DA’s Office when it brought up complaints. There was good communication at the lower levels of county government, he said, but his concerns didn’t make it to the top.

“Many of these issues have been percolating in the county for years, many years. None of this, I think, is new to insiders in the county,” Hestrin said in an interview.

Some of those concerns were raised during court hearings in the conservatorship cases with county lawyers present.

“It was the worst-kept secret that there were problems,” Hestrin said.

So finally, around July 2021, Hestrin sat down with ABC News, and in an interview that aired in a “20/20” special in November, said “they have been victimized again by the system” and that some of the adults were living in “squalor” and “crime-ridden neighborhoods.” Jennifer, Jordan and Joshua Turpin also talked about their difficulties on the show.

“I decided to go public (on “20/20″) because I wanted to shine a light on what I saw and I did not believe there was any pathway to remedy the situation by going to county officials,” Hestrin said this week. “There were certain ones that would have blocked and stonewalled … I stand by that decision.”

Hestrin had been silent about his comments on “20/20” because he said he didn’t want to interfere with the investigation by former federal judge Stephen Larson, who was contacted by the county in October to examine its social services divisions. Hestrin agreed to elaborate on his comments this week after Larson presented his findings in a 634-page report delivered to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, July 12.

Hestrin said that in the months after the “20/20” interview and before the county announced the investigation on Nov. 19 — the day the TV special aired — he continued to attempt to help the Turpins.

Hestrin said TV producers were initially unsure whether the show would air. But in late October, Hestrin said, he was told the broadcast was on. Hestrin said he then phoned Van Wagenen, who had been the county’s chief executive officer since February, to alert him to the interview and the Turpins’ woes.

Van Wagenen said he acted on Hestrin’s call that day.

“We developed a multidisciplinary team that had been set up in other situations specifically now to deal with the 13 siblings so that we were having the full picture of what was being provided to the Turpins,” Van Wagenen said. “… So, the first thing we did is get a full picture and then we began to fill the gaps in services.”

Hestrin credited Van Wagenen with making “significant improvements.”

The “20/20” segment also revealed that some of the Turpin minors had been placed in a foster home whose three caregivers — Lennys, Rosa and Marcelino Olguin — were arrested and charged with child abuse. They have pleaded not guilty.

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, seen in 2018 announcing charges against David and Louise Turpin, said this week that problems suffered by the Turpins’ adult children after their rescue were “the worst-kept secret,” yet he had difficulty getting other county officials to help. (File photo by John Valenzuela, Fontana News Room/SCNG)


Kenneth White, a partner in Brown White & Osborn, said this week that the only area of conflict with the DA’s Office came when Hestrin asked a judge in 2018 to remove his firm as the attorneys for the Turpins in the conservatorship.

Jennifer Turpin had complained that the lawyers asked her not to tell DA investigators “good stuff” about her parents that could be used in their defense.  Also, Brown White & Osborn wanted to be present when DA investigators asked the Turpin siblings questions about their possible involvement in their parents’ crimes; some had carried out punishments when their parents were not home. Hestrin believed that the lawyers didn’t need to be present because the Turpin siblings were granted immunity.

“No responsible attorney would let that happen,” White said. “If he thought that was inappropriate, he doesn’t understand the job of a defense attorney.”

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