Richter Trial Day 5: Girls' aunt, grandmother testify

Richter Trial Day 5: Girls' aunt, grandmother testify
Michelle Pulido (Source: Tucson News Now)
Michelle Pulido (Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The trial of a Tucson couple accused of abusing and imprisoning three young girls for years continued Friday with testimony from law enforcement and family members, including the girls' aunt, Michelle Pulido.

The girls' grandmother, Paula Kammon, also took the stand on Friday, Day 5 of the trial of Fernando and Sophia Richter.

The Richters are accused of holding Sophia's three daughters captive inside their Pinal and Pima county homes in filthy prison-like conditions for up to two years. The Tucson couple faces multiple charges, including kidnapping.

Some of the law enforcement members expected to testify are from Pinal County and handled the case connected to the Richter's home in Catalina.

Court ended around 2 p.m. There will be no court on Monday and the trial is set to resume Tuesday, Nov. 24.

Friday's Testimony

Michelle Pulido took the stand on Friday morning. She is Sophia Richter's sister and the three girls' aunt.

She said the last time she saw her nieces was at the Catalina house. She said she did not notice anything unusual and that she did go into the girls' room.

Paula Kammon is Sophia Richter's mother.

She said prior to the arrest of Sophia and Fernando Richer in November 2013, she had not seen the three girls in about two years.

She visited the Richters at their home in Catalina one time, but did not see the girls. She said that after the Richters moved, she was told the family was living in San Diego, CA.

Kammon said she spoke to Sophia Richter on the phone several times, and was led to believe they were in San Diego. She also spoke with the two youngest daughters on the phone and was led to believe the same thing.

When she spoke with the girls, she was told the oldest daughter was not home at the time.

When the Richters were arrested, Kammon stated she was shocked to find out the family was in Arizona.

Thursday's Testimony

The youngest and oldest sisters took the stand on Thursday.

Tucson News Now does not identify minors so we will refer to the girls by their ages, or as the youngest, middle or oldest sister.

Both of the girls accused Fernando Richter of being physically and emotionally abusive.

The oldest girl said the biggest punishment for her was music.

She said a regular hip-hop station would be played on full blast in her room nearly 24-7. As punishment, she said her mother would turn the music to static. She said the static would make her ears ring and would make it hard for her to sleep. She was not allowed to touch the radio.

The oldest sister said in the Tucson home where she was found, she was never physically punished.

However, in the Catalina house, she said she was hit several times with objects such as a hangar, a TV wire or a belt.

She said Fernando Richter hit her with a stick once so hard that the stick broke and made her back bleed.

The youngest sister took the stand first Thursday, describing much of the same events as her sister had the day before.

The girl spoke about a time Fernando Richter allegedly beat her for not "reading the dictionary right".

"He was mad because I wasn't reading the dictionary right," the girl said. "At the time I had to read the dictionary out lout 24/7, like all day. And I wasn't reading it right, I guess. And he pulled me by the ear, pulled me to the garage and whooped me many times. I had scars on my back."

She also testified about a time Fernando slapped her out of a chair.

"Again, he was also mad that I wasn't reading right, so he came in and he was really angry," she said. "He slapped me off the chair and I had a bloody nose. He thought I was playing with my blood. And I don't know what he meant by that. But he thought I was playing with my blood and I told him that I just got a bloody nose. Then he went out of the room, Mom came in and she tried to do…she tried to make it stop and he told her to just let me bleed."

The allegations came to light in November 2013, when two of the girls escaped the home and ran to the neighbors.

The youngest sister also claimed Fernando threatened them against leaving.

"He told us that if we ever run away, he would find us and bad stuff would happen," she said. "Fernando even told me to my face that we would kill me the first chance he got. I was scared to leave. At the time, they were all I had. Living with someone so long, you just get used to it."

Background

Authorities claim the girls were monitored by video surveillance 24 hours per day, fed the same "disgusting food" day after day, forced to drink bath water out of moldy plastic jugs, beat with belts and spoons and sometimes had to use their closets as a bathroom. Authorities also said the Richters blasted loud music through the home.

Paul Skitzki, who is representing Fernando Richter, said the sisters were unhappy with Fernando's relationship with Sophia. Skitzki claimed there is no evidence of abuse or beatings and the girls were allowed to come and go as they pleased.

The allegations came to light November 2013 when two of the girls managed to escape the family's Tucson home. The girls said they escaped through a window when Fernando Richter tried to break down their bedroom door with a knife in his hand.

Investigators said the Richters, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, moved to Tucson in August 2013 after living in Pinal County for several years.

Previous Coverage

• DAY 2: Police officers testify about living conditions.

• DAY 3: Middle sister takes witness stand.

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