Couple accused of kidnapping face additional charges in Pinal Co - Tucson News Now

Couple accused of kidnapping, abuse face charges in Pinal Co.

Fernando and Sophia Richter Fernando and Sophia Richter
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Tucson News Now has confirmed that a Tucson couple accused of holding three sisters captive in a midtown home also face charges in Pinal County.

Fernando and Sophia Richter pleaded not guilty last month in Pima County to charges of kidnapping and child abuse.  Tucson police say Fernando and Sophia Richter held three girls captive in dungeon-like conditions, isolated from the outside world.  Court documents indicated the girls were monitored by video surveillance, sometimes fed once a day, forced to drink bath water out of moldy plastic jugs, and sometimes forced to use their closets as a bathroom.

Court documents also stated the girls were beaten with hangers and wooden sticks, and they were forced to endure loud music played constantly in their rooms. 

Police said the Richter's lived in Pinal County for several years before moving to Tucson.

Celeste Flores, who lived a few doors down from the Richter family in Pinal County said she often heard that music, and she told police about it when they questioned her, after the girls were rescued.

"The detectives were in awe when we told them we'd go run every afternoon, and we would hear the music loud, we told them there was always loud music," said Flores.

Police said while the crimes came to light in Tucson, after the two girls escaped from a bedroom window right before Thanksgiving, majority of the crimes took place at the home on East Blackcrest Loop, in Pinal County.  

Renata Ruiz lived right next door to the Richters.  She described them as a friendly and helpful couple, and said Sophia Richter had told her she had three daughters, but they lived with their biological dad.  Ruiz said she never saw or heard any children at the home next door. 

In fact, most of the residents on the quiet street said they had no idea children lived in the Richter home.

"They actually said they were trying to have children to me," said Flores.

Flores added that she actually knocked on the Richter's door once, to invite them over for a graduation party.  She said the music was loud inside the home when she knocked, when she turned to leave Richter Fernando answered the door, and accepted her invitation.

"They showed up later to our party and he got drunk, wasted.  They had to escort him out.  He made quite a scene in the neighborhood.  He broke the tail light to our car and paid for it later.  From what we knew he was a corrections officer in Florence.  He told us he worked in the prison," said Flores. 

Court records indicate the Richters, who are both incarcerated in the Pima County Jail, were both served with felony warrants out of Pinal County on January 16th.

Pima County Justice Court documents indicate that at least one of those charges is child-vulnerable adult abuse.

A TPD spokesman said detectives conducted their own investigation in Pinal County, and filed multiple charges against the Richters. All of those charges were turned over to the Pinal County prosecutor's office for review.

A Pinal County court official said she was unable to look up the charges because the case is sealed.

A Pinal County prosecutor's office spokesman sent this statement on behalf of County Attorney Lando Voyles:

"Working with detectives from both the Tucson Police Department and the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, we continue to see truly phenomenal cooperation as both agencies conduct a professional, thorough and extraordinarily well-coordinated investigation.

"Specifically, I want to recognize Tucson Chief of Police Robert Villaseñor and his Detectives, Hickey and Avalos, and Sgt. Pegnato-Hill also from the Tucson Police Department and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu and his detective, Detective Munger from the Pinal County Sheriff's Office for their cooperation, outstanding work, investigation, and dedication to working with and remaining in communication with my prosecutors throughout the investigation.

"At this time, we have no further information to disclose.  Once able, my office will certainly provide further details related to this case."

Fernando and Sophia Richter are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty."

Court documents indicate the Richters have a court appearance in Pinal County on Jan. 30, at 9:00 a.m.

All three girls are now in the custody of the state, but they are living together. 

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