Police: Relatives thought girls were in CA

Police: Relatives thought girls were in CA
Fernando Richter and Sophia Richter (Source: Tucson Police Department)
Fernando Richter and Sophia Richter (Source: Tucson Police Department)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson Police continue to release details about what they have discovered while investigating a case of kidnapping and child abuse.

Three girls, aged 12, 13, and 17, say their mother and stepfather, Sophia Richter, 32, and Fernando Richter, 24, held them captive for up to two years.

Police say the girls were allegedly held against their will in separate rooms in a home in the 2800 block of North Estrella Avenue, near East Glenn Street and North Stone Avenue.

TPD Chief Roberto Villasenor said the girls lived there for four months.  He said they didn't know their address or where they were.

Villasenor said relatives believed the girls were in California. He said detectives have interviewed grandparents and two biological fathers of the girls.

According to Villasenor, there are two biological fathers, one is the father of the 17 year old, the other is the father of the younger two girls. The fathers had no contact with the girls, he said.

Villasenor said the home in which three sisters were allegedly imprisoned was electronically monitored with alarms and video surveillance.

The older sister kept a journal that detailed a year and a half of alleged abuse, Villasenor said. He called this journal a key to the case as it documented routines, such as feedings.

Villasenor said, "The captors did things that made the girls feel isolated and not in control."

He said the girls told detectives that if they needed to use the restroom, they had to signal their parents through the cameras. If the signal wasn't acknowledged, the girls would sometimes have to use the closet, he said.

The girls are together in a group foster home, Villasenor said, adding that authorities felt it was important that they stayed together.

"We did not want to contribute to separating these girls again," he said.

Villasenor said there is no indication of school records about or attendance by the sisters.

He said at an earlier news conference that evidence found at the home supports their claims of imprisonment.

TPD Chief Roberto Villasenor said during a news conference today that he asked detectives if they think these things (claims by the girls) happened and "Their overwhelming impression is that the girls were telling the truth."

Villasenor said evidence collected at the home validates the girls statements, which were given to police separately.

Police say the girls were imprisoned by a variety of means. The house had an extensive alarm system, including interior doors, Villasenor said.

There was a "constant barrage of music or static" directed into the rooms, which were soundproofed so well that the police couldn't hear it until they were just outside the rooms, Villasenor said. If the girls began to show enjoyment of the music, the was switched to static.

When police found the oldest girl, she was surprised they were there, because the music was so loud, Villasenor said.

He also said the girls emotional reactions to seeing each other and comments to each other about how they had changed added validation to their statements.

Villasenor said Fernando Richter invoked his Miranda rights, but Sophia Richter gave a statement. Villasenor would not divulge any details of her statement.

Fernando Richter and Sophia Richter were booked into Pima County Jail on Tuesday on three charges each of kidnapping, child abuse/emotional abuse, and child abuse/physical abuse. Fernando Richter was also charged with one count of sexual abuse with a person under 15 years of age, according to police.

Villasenor said additional charges are "more than likely."

A judge set bond for the Richters day: $100,000 for Fernando Richter and $75,000 for Sophia Richter.

Villasenor said the family had lived in the house since August. Before that they lived in the 60300 block of East Black Crest Loop in the Catalina area. He said the Pinal County Sheriff's Office would aid in the investigation because of the location of that house.

Prior to living in Catalina, the family lived for several years in the 3600 block of East March Place, near South Alvernon Way and East 29th Street in Tucson.

Tucson News Now has team coverage of this late breaking story. Follow Dan Marries (@DanMarriesKOLD), Som Lisaius (@SomLisaiusKOLD), Bud Foster (@BudFoster), and Colton Shone (@ColtonShone) on Twitter and watch for the latest updates on KOLD New 13.

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