Richter Trial Day 9: Trial breaks for day, jury to restart deliberations Thursday

Richter Trial Day 9: Trial breaks for day, jury to restart deliberations Thursday

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The trial of the Tucson couple accused of imprisoning and abusing three young sisters for years will resume Thursday with the jury in deliberations.

Fernando and Sophia Richter are accused of abusing and holding Sophia's three daughters captive in filthy conditions in their homes in Pima and Pinal counties for two years.

The trial began Wednesday morning with closing arguments from prosecutor Alan Goodwin and the attorneys for Fernando and Sophia Richter. The case was turned over to the jury around 2:15 p.m. and they deliberated until 4 p.m.

The trial will resume Thursday morning. The deliberations are expected to take a while because there are six counts against Sophia Richter and eight against Fernando Richter. All have lesser included charges, which means the Richters can be found guilty of less serious charges. Read more about the jury's options HERE.

A decision could come at any time, stay with Tucson News Now for updates on this and other live, local and late breaking stories. To receive breaking news alerts, download our free news app by texting "app" to 51313 or by going HERE.

Closing Arguments

Prosecutor Alan Goodwin went almost an hour with his closing arguments.

Goodwin told the jury the Richters together abused, neglected and controlled the girls for years.

"The Richters were a team, they acted as a team," he said. "They are both equally as culpable for this neglect and abuse."

Goodwin said the girls were forced into isolation while locked in their rooms.

"The girls existed in their rooms, knowing full well that their mother and stepfather could and would do to them anything they wanted to do," he said. "How did they know that. That is what Fernando told (one of the girls). 'I can do anything I want to you, you're not mine. Your mother gave me that permission.'"

The Richters' control over the girls was so complete, according to Goodwin, that physical restraints were not necessary.

"There were no bars. The Richters didn't chain them inside their rooms," he said. "What they did through the long process of neglect and abuse, they traumatically entrapped the girls. There didn't need to be bars on the windows. The bars were inside the girls' minds."

The girls' have testified they were fed from a orange 5-gallon bucket. On Wednesday, Goodwin described what was alleged in the bucket.

"(The girls) said the food wasn't always that bad, when it was fresh," he said. "(We) saw what was in this bucket. The pasta, the meats, the pieces of fat that the Richters cut off their steaks, the oil and the leftovers.

"When it was fresh, up at the top, it wasn't that bad. That's the thing about making food five gallons at a time. As you get near bottom, the food starts tasting worse. When you get to the bottom it is rancid, or as the girls said, nasty."

Fernando's attorney Paul Skitzki went next.

Skitzki told the jury they must follow the facts of the case and not let their emotions get in the way.

"Decide this case on the facts, not based on emotion or sympathy," he said.

He also claimed the sisters may have made things seem worse than they really were.

"What the defense would suggest to you is that, certainly, things were not ideal in this home," he siad. "But it seems that the girls, based on time passing and everything that came out of this case, seem to have embellished various parts of what was going on in their lives."

Leo Plowman, Sophia's attorney, argued the victims blamed more of the alleged abuse on Fernando and not his client. He also said that most of the alleged abuse happened at the family's home in Catalina, which is in Pinal County. He said his client is on trial for what happened here in Tucson, not Catalina.

"I ask you to carefully consider the evidence against Sophia Richter," he said. "Carefully consider the testimony that you heard about where the offenses allegedly occurred and carefully consider please whom you heard committed the offenses. I think that's very important in this case because if you go through the testimony of the first few girls there's very little said about Sophia Richter, very very little said."


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.

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 3: Middle sister takes witness stand

• DAY 6: State rests case after psychiatrist testifies

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