World & Nation

Tucson couple to face kidnap, abuse charges in imprisonment case

Fernando and Sophia Richter
Fernando Richter and his wife, Sophia Richter, have been charged with keeping three girls, all sisters, imprisoned and in filthy conditions at a house in Tucson.

TUCSON -- A couple accused of imprisoning three sisters for up to two years in their bedrooms will go straight to trial, Pima County Attorney officials announced Tuesday.

A Pima County Grand Jury indicted Sophia and Fernando Richter, the girls’ biological mother and stepfather, on nine counts of kidnapping, aggravated assault and child abuse, county attorney officials said in a statement.

Fernando Richter, 34, and Sophia Richter, 32, are scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

Officials said that the sisters — ages 12, 13 and 17 — were captive in their bedrooms and under 24-hour camera surveillance. Sometimes they weren’t allowed to go to the bathroom, forced to relieve themselves in their bedroom closets, police said.


The two younger sisters were kept in a separate room from the 17-year-old and hadn’t seen her in months, the girls told authorities. They were subjected to music playing at all hours, the younger girls forced to listen to “Latin-style music,” while the eldest was subjected to hip-hop, officials said. If the girls seemed to favor a song, police said, the parents would play something else.

Both bedrooms had alarm systems and shuttered vents. In addition, the spaces between the bedroom doors and the floor were blocked.

The 17-year-old also kept a diary of her ordeal. Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor declined to reveal the diary’s contents but said the teen kept one of her most prized possessions — a photo of singer Enrique Iglesias — in the journal, which was kept inside a satchel.

According to authorities, the girls’ mother has been with Fernando Richter for about a decade and married him about four years ago.


On Nov. 26, the two younger girls escaped the single-story suburban home through an alarmed bedroom window, running to a neighbor’s house for help. It was unclear whether the alarm sounded.

The neighbor, who would give only his first name of Phillip, said he in an interview that he and his wife, Alice, took in the girls and called police. The couple was shocked because they didn’t even know there were children living in the home, he said.

 The sisters, who were described as looking “extremely dirty,” told police they hadn’t bathed in four to six months.

Authorities said that the family had moved into the Tucson home in August and that the girls indicated they had been imprisoned in previous homes.

County Attorney officials said a significant majority of the suspected criminal actions occurred in Pinal County, which borders Pima County.

The Richters were booked into Pima County Jail, with bail set at $100,000 for Fernando Richter and $75,000 for Sophia Richter.

While being held at the Pima County Adult Detention Center, Fernando Richter was arrested this week on suspicion of assaulting a corrections officer.

On Monday, officers discovered Richter was covering the window of his cell with wet papers, officials said in a prepared statement. The officers ordered him to remove the papers and opened the cell door when he refused to comply.


That’s when Richter grabbed a corrections officer’s shirt and attempted to push his way out of the cell, officials said. The corrections officers restrained Richter and placed him in handcuffs.


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