RANCHO MIRAGE – Investigations into some of the most hellish and heinous child abuse cases in Riverside County often turn to assistance from the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center.
The internationally recognized leader in counseling physically, sexually and emotionally abused children likely has its thumbprint on the case of the 13 siblings who had allegedly been tied to their beds by their parents as punishment for misbehavior — first with ropes, then with chains and padlocks, officials said. They are known as the Turpin children, who range in age from 2 to 29. All but the youngest were fed very little food on a schedule, leaving them profoundly malnourished.
The Center also played a critical role in the case involving convicted child molester John David Yoder was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his involvement in the case of a child porn ring that preyed upon the children of Desert Hot Springs.
Yoder was convicted of 10 felony crimes – including child molestation, human trafficking and criminal conspiracy – in February 2016.
“There was evidence of sexual abuse in the Yoder case,” said John E. Thoresen, director and executive officer of the Center. Yoder and a couple gentlemen from Las Vegas were arrested and convicted of child pornography and sexual abuse with young boys. Basically, Yoder was going to skate parks and finding boys, buying them gifts, taking them to Disneyland and stuff and grooming them as perpetrators do. We interviewed a number of those boys and some of those boys came here for counseling.”
Due to patient privacy laws, the Center is prohibited from releasing the names of patients who seek help – and therefore the public rarely knows of the Center’s role in high-profile cases.
This is only one reason why the Center, founded by Frank and Barbara Sinatra, matters. The work it does matters significantly year round — and especially this month, which has been set aside as Make March Matter. For the second consecutive year, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) has partnered with the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center (BSCC) in conjunction with CHLA’s Make March Matter™ fundraising campaign. The goal is to raise at least $250,000 during the month of March in the Coachella Valley in support of services for children and families at CHLA and BSCC.
The Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center employs Riverside County’s leading full-time forensic interviewer, said Thoresen.
To be called to help with these high-profile cases, which received – and continues to receive – international attention — recognizes the valuable abilities and skills that the Center’s forensic interviewer has, Thoresen said. “When a detective, or the district attorney, is investigating, let’s just call it suspected abuse, it’s important to have somebody that knows how to talk to children to get as much information about the suspected abuse as you can.”
Though, in this particular case, much of the physical abuse was painfully obvious, he said.
Thoresen said the forensic professional interviewed one or two of the Turpin children though he could not reveal how old they were.
Forensic Interviews are ordered by law enforcement, the District Attorney’s office or Child Protective Services. The Barbara Sinatra Center provides a child-friendly environment and state-of-the-art recording equipment to help collect evidence to assist in the prosecution of suspected child maltreatment including: sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect and witness to violence. More than 400 Forensic Interviews are conducted annually at the Children’s Center.
The Turpin children were discreetly released last week from Corona Regional Medical Center and taken by their lawyer and public guardian from the hospital to a rural house in an undisclosed location, according to ABC News.
Thoresen said he does not know where they are but if they are in close proximity to Rancho Mirage, the Center will most surely be involved in helping them recover.
The siblings’ parents, David and Louise Turpin, face about 40 charges in their children’s abuse, which for years went undiscovered until one of the Turpin teenagers escaped from the Perris, Calif., house in January and alerted police. Her 12 siblings were freed soon after, and the parents were arrested.
The charges against the parents include a dozen counts of torture and another dozen counts of false imprisonment. Louise Turpin has also been charged with felony assault.
They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and continue to be held on $12 million bail each in a jail in Riverside, Calif.