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Tucson pair accused of imprisoning sisters to appear in court Dec. 9

November 29, 2013|By Cindy Carcamo

A couple accused of imprisoning three sisters for up to two years in their bedrooms is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 9, Pima County Attorney officials said Friday.

Sophia and Fernando Richter, the girls' biological mother and stepfather, were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of kidnapping, emotional child abuse and physical child abuse.

Fernando Richter, 34, was also arrested on suspicion of sexual abuse with a person under 15 years of age.

The couple was taken into custody shortly after police arrived at the family home, having been called by a neighbor. The two were booked into Pima County Jail and, during a brief court appearance by video, saw their bail set -- $100,000 for Fernando Richter and $75,000 for Sophia Richter, 32.

Officials said that the sisters — ages 12, 13 and 17 — were captive in their bedrooms, under 24-hour camera surveillance and subjected to music playing in their rooms at all hours. The younger girls were forced to listen to “Latin-style music” while the eldest was subjected to hip-hop, officials said.

If the girls seemed to favor a song, police said the parents would play something else.

Sometimes they weren't allowed to go to the bathroom, forced to relieve themselves in their bedroom closets, police said.

Investigators were also continuing to comb through a diary that was kept by the 17-year-old. At Wednesday's news conference, Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor declined to reveal the diary's contents but said the teen kept one of her most prized possessions — a photo of singer Enrique Iglesias — in the journal, which was kept inside a satchel.

According to authorities, the girls’ mother has been with Fernando Richter for about a decade and married him about four years ago. Investigators said they still don’t know what led the couple to imprison the girls.

The sisters, who were described as looking "extremely dirty," told police they hadn’t bathed in four to six months.

The two younger sisters were kept in a separate room from the 17-year-old and hadn’t seen her in months, the girls told authorities

Both bedrooms had alarm systems and shuttered vents. In addition, the spaces between the bedroom doors and the floor were blocked.

Authorities said that the family had moved into the home in August and that the girls indicated they had been imprisoned in previous homes.

The two younger girls told police they had escaped the single-story suburban home through an alarmed bedroom window, running to a neighbor’s house for help. It was unclear whether the alarm sounded.

The neighbor, who would give only his first name of Phillip, said he and his wife, Alice, took in the girls and called police. He and Alice were shocked because, they said, they didn’t even know there were children living in the home.

The two younger girls, who spent about an hour at the couple’s home, were frantic at first, Phillip said. He and his wife tried to calm the girls and make them feel safe. Eventually they felt more comfortable, started joking with each other and began to peruse the couple’s book collection.

“We like to read,” one of the girls told Phillip.

He said the girls were very polite and articulate, expressing their fondness for math and science and telling him that they missed attending school.

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cindy.carcamo@latimes.com 

@thecindycarcamo

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