TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The trial of the Tucson couple accused of imprisoning and abusing three young sisters for years continued Tuesday and took several unusual turns as one of the defendants took the stand.
Sophia Richter, the mother of the girls, testified throughout most of the day Tuesday.
The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning with closing arguments. After that, the jury will begin deliberating.
Fernando and Sophia Richter are accused of holding Sophia's three girls captive inside their Pinal and Pima county homes in filthy conditions. The couple is facing three counts of kidnapping, domestic violence and child abuse. Fernando Richter is also facing two counts of aggravated assault.
Sophia Richter took the stand around 10:56 a.m. after an opening statement from her lawyer Leo Plowman Jr. He had deferred his opening statement to a later date when the trial began two weeks ago.
When asked if she ever asked her oldest daughter to stay in her room Sophia said no.
"I didn't force any of my children to stay in their room," she said. "I never locked them in. I never told them to stay in there. I never told them that they could not come out. We were monitored. My life was monitored. Whatever I did, who I talked to, where I went."
After her statement, the prosecution and Fernando's attorney lodged objections and the trial broke for an administrative session around 11:45 a.m.
During the session, Judge Paul Tang reminded everyone that the court has ruled Sophia cannot blame Fernando for the alleged crimes or she will forfeit her right to testify.
Plowman asked to be allowed to withdraw as counsel and Paul Skitzki, Fernando's attorney, requested a mistrial or to have separate trials. Judge Tang denied all three requests.
Judge Tang also instructed the jury to disregard Sophia's comment about being monitored.
The trial continued at 11:55 a.m. with Plowman questioning Sophia.
Sophia Richter claimed the girls were never starved or force fed and always had plenty of food, water, fruit and snacks. She also said she never locked them in their rooms.
In previous testimony, many people said they thought the Richters were living in San Diego when they were actually living in Tucson. Sophia admitted about lying to her mother about where they were living but said she never instructed her kids to lie about it.
"No, we were instructed (to lie)," she said.
Fernando's attorney objected to Sophia's statement again. Skitzki asked for another mistrial, claiming his client has been prejudiced by Sophia's testimony. Judge Tang denied the request and ordered the comment be stricken from the record.
After a short break for lunch, the trial resumed around 1:30 p.m. with Sophia claiming she never beat her children. The defense rested after her testimony and there was no cross examination.
Around 2 p.m., the judge began giving the final instructions to the jury as well reading the verdict forms. The trial broke for the day and will resume around 10 a.m. Wednesday with closing arguments. The jury could get the case and begin deliberating in the afternoon.
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.
• DAY 3: Middle sister takes witness stand.
• DAY 4: Neighbors reflect on day girls escaped.
• DAY 5: Girls' aunt, grandmother testify.
• DAY 7: Defendant's mother takes the stand.