Lifetime’s House of Chains tells the story of a seemingly typical suburban family. However, behind the facade are sinister crimes grounded on strict religious beliefs. Laura and Tye, the patriarch and matriarch of the McGrath family, isolate their six children from the outside world.
As the kids grow curious with age, the parents adopt more restrictive measures and subject the children to imprisonment, abuse, and neglect. Unwilling to see their younger siblings suffer similar fates, the older McGrath children escape their hellish prison and report their parents to authorities.
Lifetime’s latest ‘ripped from the headlines’ production is reportedly based on the true crime story of the Turpin family.
David Allen and Louise Ann Turpin tortured and imprisoned their children for years
Jordan Turpin’s bravery led to the discovery of the torture endured by the Turpin children. The media dubbed the Turpin residence a house of horrors, as authorities rescued 13 children, aged 2 to 29, from a wretched existence.
Authorities found children so malnourished that they looked years younger than their actual ages. The oldest Turpin child was 29, but she looked like a child since her muscle growth had stagnated.
The Turpin children were fed irregularly and often denied access to a bathroom. Their parents, David and Louise Turpin, chained or tied them to their beds and warned them against trying to escape. However, after Jordan heard of plans to move the family to Oklahoma, she acted.
“If we went to Oklahoma, there was a big chance that some of us would have died,” Jordan said on 20/20. Jordan took photos using a phone, escaped through a window, and called 911 to explain the situation. Like the children in House of Chains, Jordan risked her life for her siblings.
“They [her parents] would just kill me right there,” Jordan said, “especially if they knew I was on the phone with the police.”
Though both David and Louise pleaded guilty to charges of false imprisonment, child and adult abuse, and torture, many believed David manipulated Louise into abusing the children.
Like Laura in House of Chains, Louise had endured a harsh and abusive life, which left her vulnerable to David’s manipulation. “I saw my dad change my mom,” one of the Turpin children said at the sentencing trial.
Nevertheless, Judge Bernard J. Schwartz sentenced David and Louise to life imprisonment with a possibility of parole in 25 years.
The Turpin children’s suffering reportedly continued in foster care
In House of Chains, the rescue of the McGrath family children marks the end of their nightmare. However, for some Turpin kids, the rescue only provided only a brief respite from abuse, hunger, and torture. “I don’t really have a way to get food,” Jordan talked about her experience in the foster system.
In July 2022, the Turpin siblings filed two lawsuits against a foster care agency. The suits claimed the agency placed the children into a family with ‘a prior history of physically and emotionally abusing children as well as severely neglected children who had been placed in their care.’
The foster parents were unidentified in the suit. However, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to People that the parents were Marcelino and Rosa Olguin. The parents and their daughter Lennys Olguin pleaded not guilty to multiple child abuse charges.
The suits claim that ChildNet, a foster care agency, prioritized financial gain over the children’s welfare:
“As to ChildNet, it had a financial motive to continue placing a large number of children in this foster home and thereby strengthen its relationship with the County of Riverside, and it put that financial motive ahead of its responsibility to children.”
“While the kids were being abused further, the county closed their eyes,” Elan Zekster, one of the children’s attorneys, said on Good Morning America. The suits accuse the Olguin family of subjecting the Turpin children to physical and emotional abuse.
According to the filing, the Olguins made the kids recount their experiences under their parents. The suit further alleges that the family fed the children until they threw up before forcing them to eat their vomit.