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 New charges for couple accused of holding sisters captive
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7 months ago

New charges for couple accused of holding sisters captive

TUCSON - The couple accused of holding their 3 daughters captive went before a judge in Pinal County today for an arraignment hearing.

[PDF: Grand Jury Indictment]

Fernando and Sophia Richter are now facing a whole new series of child abuse charges in Pinal County where investigators say they also held Sophia's 3 daughters captive.

The Richters lived in Pinal County before moving to their midtown Tucson home where the girls escaped in November.

The couple was first charged with child abuse and kidnapping in Pima County. Court documents allege the Richters abused the 3 sisters between March 15, 2011 and Sept. 1, 2013.

A Pinal County grand jury indicted Fernando Richter on 15 counts. Besides child abuse, Richter is also charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault by applying pressure to the throat or choking.

One girl also was sexually abused and molested, court documents said.Another suffered a bloddy nose and another was hit with a stick.

Sophia is accused of 9 counts of child abuse and kidnapping.

Pinal County attorney Lando Voyles says there was cooperation between Pinal County Sheriffs and Tucson Polic.

"There was no delay. They immediately started working out the case that was alleged to have occured in Catalina," Voyles said.

The judge ordered Fernando held without bond and he placed a $100,000 bond on Sophia.

Fernando's parents were in the courtroom and refused to comment on camera. The father said it would be taken care of in a court of law and that there's been a lot of lies told.

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7 months ago

Held Captive: No plea deal for accused parents

TUCSON - Prosecutors say they're not cutting a plea deal for a southern Arizona couple accused of imprisoning the woman's three daughters inside their Tucson home.

Fernando Richter and his 32-year-old wife Sophia Richter appeared Tuesday in Pima County Superior Court for a status conference.

The couple has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping and child abuse.

They're accused of keeping the three girls locked in their rooms during a three-month period ending on Nov. 26. That's when police discovered the girls' alleged captivity.

Tucson police say the siblings are ages 12, 13 and 17.

Fernando Richter is the girls' 34-year-old stepfather. He also is charged with aggravated assault on two of the girls and assaulting a corrections officer in jail.

The couple's next scheduled court hearing is Feb. 10.

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8 months ago

Held Captive: Mom, stepdad indicted

TUCSON - A grand jury has has formally accused Fernanado and Sophia Richter with 9 counts of kidnapping and abuse towards the 3 girls in their care.

The indictment was filed in Pima County Superior Court Friday.

Sophia and Fernando Richter are charged with the following:

  • Kidnapping, a class 2 felony
  • Child abuse, a class 4 felony
In addition, Fernando Richter is charged with assaulting an officer and aggravated assault with a knife, court documents show.

Officers were called to the home in the 28 hundred block of North Estrella Avenue Tuesday morning. It's near Glenn and Stone.

A 911 call reporting domestic violence led police to the home Nov. 26.

Three girls tell officers that they'd been kept in their bedrooms for several months, possibly up to two years.

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8 months ago

Girls held captive: 911 calls and police report released

TUCSON - Police have released the 911 call and the police report regarding the three girls held captive in their midtown home for up to two years.

In the 911 call made to the dispatcher, the neighbor states, "I'm calling on behalf of some neighbors of mine, they say that their father or their neighbor someone is trying to break into their hour with a knife."

With dispatchers on the line, the neighbor hands over the phone to the 14-year-old girl, she explains that she was unsure if her mother's husband was drunk and her 17-year-old sister is still in need of help. "We were just standing there and you see, my mom's husband was trying to open the door, but he broke it in half. And me and my sister got out of the window" said the 14-year-old girl.

The police report reveals the officers asking the parents to come out with their hands up. The mother of the girls, Sophia Richter, opened the door. "I observed Sophia to have bloodshot watery eyes, odor of intoxicants coming from her person and stumbling," said Police. Richter's husband, Fernando Richter, was showing signs of similar behavior.

In the house, officers found the 17-year-old girl in her bedroom with hip hop music blaring. She told officers that she did not like or trust and was afraid of Fernando. Also in the house, officers found bottles of urine and video cameras in the living room.

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8 months ago

Held Captive: 911 calls, police report released

TUCSON - It was a week ago Tuesday when police rescuedthree girls who were being held captive by their parents.

Tucson Police released transcripts of the harrowing 911 call and a police report. Police aren't releasing the audio tape of the 911 call because they said it was too "heart wrenching."Q. Tucson Police, Yslava.

A. Yes, I'm calling on behalf of some neighbors of mine, they says that their father, or their their neighbor, someone is trying to break into their house with a knife.

Q. Okay. How come they, they don't have phone?
A. They're two young girls and they're very upset. Uh, one's fourteen, one's, one's twelve and they're.....

Q. How did they call you?
A. They came and knocked on our door. And rang our doorbell.

Q. Saying somebody was trying to break in with a knife?
A. Yeah. They said someone was trying to break into their house. Girls stay in, stay inside, don't go outside.

A Yeah um, you see, we were, (redacted) any my mom's husband, I don't know if he's drunk, I don't know if what.....(redacted)

Q. Okay, hold on. And you went to your neighbors' and said you needed help?
A. We need, it's cuz we were just standing there and you see, my mom's husband was trying to pen the door, but he broke it in half. And me and my sister got out of the window.

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9 months ago

Held Captive: Former neighbor says Richters were noisy

TUCSON- A neighbor who used to live next door to Sophia and Fernando Richter says the family was quite noisy.

Kimberly Charlton lived next to the Richters' home near Dodge Blvd. and 32nd Street, where the family lived between 2004 and 2007. "We kinda knew them as just quiet neighbors, until {Fernando} started doing construction and woke us up in the middle of the night," Charlton says.

Charlton says Fernando would often do construction work in the front and back yard of the house.

She also says she would often hear fighting coming from the house. "Sometimes it would even be outside," Charlton says. "We would be swimming and hear something," Charlton says.

She also recalls one incident when she saw a disturbing message written on the family's car. "It said something about bombing the vehicle and it said it was a warning or something," Charlton says.

Though a bit alarming, she says she never suspected her neighbors would be accused of abusing their children. She says she never saw the older daughter, but she would occasionally see the two younger daughters. "They didn't seem like anything was wrong, they just seemed like kids who were coming home or leaving somewhere," Charlton says. "Nothing seemed off to me at all."

The Richters also lived at a home in Catalina from March 2011 through August 2013.

According to court records, they were married in 2010. There is no record of where they were living at that time.

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9 months ago

News 4 Tucson Investigators: Richter's record

TUCSON - Fernando Richter may have imprisoned his stepchildren, but he has managed to avoid prison.

Aside from the nightmare that police say happened on North Estrella, court records obtained by the News 4 Tucson Investigators show Richter has shown signs of having a violent temper.

Richter, 34, was charged last year with beating up his own brother. He was charged with assault with intent to injure, criminal damage and disorderly conduct, five counts total. All the charges were dismissed. Richter received court-ordered diversion, that's legalese for anger management classes.

In 2007, Richter was charged with threats and intimidation and disorderly conduct. The charges were dismissed and, same as last year, Richter was ordered to attend anger management classes. Richter also has been charged twice with DUI. After being charged in South Tucson in 2002 he ultimately pleaded guilty to reckless driving. Last year in Sahuarita he was convicted of DUI and ordered to undergo alcohol screening and driving training.

We have numerous questions about this case for Child Protective Services, but the agency emailed us this statement: "The Department cannot provide specific information unless the request involves a case of abuse or neglect resulting in a fatality or near fatality," per Arizona law.

Fortunately, the nightmare on North Estrella didn't reach that level.

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9 months ago

Imprisoned girls brings back haunting memories for Tucson woman

TUCSON – The recent revelations of three girls imprisoned in a midtown home brings back haunting memories for one woman who lived through abuse and was even held captive at times.

Levi River was only 16 years old when she found herself in an abusive relationship. It lasted seven years.

She was beaten, raped and imprisoned in a home in another state – at times she was even locked away in a large underground freezer with only a hose coming out for air.

While it has been 14 years since River escaped a living nightmare, the recent news involving the three young girls imprisoned in terrible conditions brings back her own memories.

“I want them to know that there is hope out there. I want them to know that this not their fault and that they have a lot of people out here that care for them and are willing to help them – they’re safe now,” River told News 4 Tucson.

To this day, River struggles with her past but it’s gotten easier since interacting with “Tiny” – the big therapy horse that has a leash on River’s heart.

“Look at me, after all these years I had to relearn how to walk and talk again and now I’m walking and I’m talking and I’m smiling,” River said.

Mary Vardi, of Therapeutic Riding of Tucson, said that River has benefited from the emotional connection of interacting with horses – a significant step that happened after years of coping with what had happened.

“Most of the time, [the horse] is following her direction and so that gives an empowerment that say ‘I can do this, I can be in charge, I can be the leader,’” Vardi said.

The biggest hurdle in the road to recovery River’s sister, Marie, said is finding trust again.

“It’s going to be a struggle. Let your family in if they’re willing to be there for you… let them in if they didn’t know what was going on, forgive that so you can move on,” Marie said.

It’s a sobering reality for a woman who’s been down that long road to recovery.

“It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be angry but it’s okay to smile and laugh,” River said.

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9 months ago

Held Captive: Girls report on living conditions

TUCSON - In the interim complaint obtained by News 4 Tucson, statements from the victims and evidence collected detail how three girls lived locked in their room for two years.

Fernando and Sophia Richter are each charged with 6 counts of child abuse. Both suspects are charged with three counts of kidnapping. Fernando Richter also faces one count of sexual abuse of a minor under 15-years-old.

The girls reported to detectives the squalid conditions of their captivity.

In the interim complaint, the girls said they were constantly videotaped in their bedroom. They were required to put on a black cap and raise their hand when they needed to go to the bathroom, the report detailed.

Sophia Richter allowed them to leave once or twice a day to use the bathroom, which was partitioned off with sheets to only allow movement from the bathroom to the bedroom, Chief Villansenor said.

If the girls had to use the restroom more than that, they would have to get permission to relieve themselves in the closet, according to their statements in the report.

The rooms were locked and secured with an alarm that would trigger if the door was opened, Villasenor said.

The girls reported that they were whipped numerous times over the years. Their assailaints used their hands, wooden spoons and wires to whip the girls until they bled, the report detailed.

The girls said they were only fed once a day. When they were rescued, they hadn't bathed in months. Part of the evidence collected included jugs of water with mold and dirty plastic plates. Urine and vomit soaked bedding and clothing were found in one of the girl's bedroom closet.

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9 months ago

Held Captive: Booking photos of couple released

On November 26, 2013, at 4:02 a.m., officers from Operations Division West responded to a residence in the 2800 block.
of North Estrella Avenue regarding a domestic violence fight involving a knife. Upon arrival, officers contacted two
juvenile females, ages 12 and 13, who had ran to the neighbor's house alleging that their step-father had attempted to
break into their bedroom while brandishing a knife. During the course of the investigation, it was alleged by the girls
that they had been imprisoned in their bedrooms for at least the last several months and possibly up to two years. It was
also discovered that there was a 17-year old sister who was still in the house in a different bedroom. Officers made entry
into the home and located a third juvenile locked in a bedroom. All three juveniles were extremely dirty and stated they
had not bathed in 4 to 6 months. They were kept in filthy living conditions and alleged only being fed once a day. The
children were removed from the home and the parents were taken into custody and later arrested. At this time the
investigation is ongoing and further information will be released as it becomes available.
The step-father in this incident was identified as 34-year old Fernando Richter. The mother was identified as 32-year old
Sophia Richter. Both were booked into the Pima County Jail with the following charges:
Mr. Richter - 3 counts of Kidnapping
- 3 counts of Child Abuse / Emotional Abuse
- 3 counts of Child Abuse / Physical Abuse
- 1 count of Sexual Abuse with a Person Under 15 Years of Age
Ms. Richter - 3 counts of Kidnapping
- 3 counts of Child Abuse / Emotional Abuse
- 3 counts of Child Abuse / Physical Abuse

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9 months ago

Couple accused of imprisoning girls make initial court appearance

TUCSON - The couple accused of holding their three girls captive made their intial appearance in video court Wednesday morning.

Sophia and Fernando Richter are both charged with 3 counts each of kidnapping, child abuse and physical abuse. Fernando is also charged with sexual abuse.

Sophia's bond was set to $75,000. Fernando's was set at $100,000.

Sophia Richter's family was present during the initial appearace Wednesday. Her sisters said they had not seen their nieces in over 2 years.

The 17-year-old victim's father was also present at court. He said he had not seen his daughter in four years.

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9 months ago

Stepfather of captive Tucson girls had charges dropped in 2012

TUCSON - The man accused of holding three girls captive in a midtown home had a run in with the law in 2012.

Fernando Richter, 34, was charged with criminal damage, disorderly conduct, and assault in March 2012, court records show.

This photo of Richter was taken when he was booked into Pima County Jail in March 2012. He was charged with disorderly conduct, assault and criminal damage. Court records show those charges were dropped.

Fernando Richter is facing 3 counts of kidnapping, 3 counts of child abuse, 3 counts of child abuse and 1 count of sexual abuse with a person under 15 years of age.

Sophia Richter is facing 3 counts of kidnapping, 3 counts of child abuse, 3 counts of emotional abuse, and 3 counts of child abuse.

They will be appearing in video court Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.

Follow News 4 Tucson reporter Ryan Haarer on Twitter for real-time updates: @RCHaarer.

9 months ago

WATCH: Former TPD Detective offers insight into child abuse investigations

TUCSON - News 4 Tucson's John Overall spoke with Author and former Tucson police officer, Michael Orozco this morning. Orozco wrote the book, "Investigating the Death of Innocents," about the 2006 case of Christopher Payne. Payne is currently on death row for starving his two children to death.

Orozco spoke with us about the process of investigating child abuse cases.

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9 months ago

Kids held captive may have long road to recovery

TUCSON - As more details are revealed in the case of three young girls allegedly held captive in a midtown home, mental health experts are offering some insight into the possible mental effects the children may be suffering from after surviving the ordeal.

But with so little known at this point about why the young girls were being abused it is difficult for mental health care experts to evaluate the condition of the children. The girls, who lived in the house in the 2800 block of Estrella Ave., say the home was their prison for up to two years and tell of threats of violence, long term separation and filthy conditions.

Dr. Dennis Embry, has a degree in child developmental psychology, and says if the girls were held captive by their caregivers they were living in a very toxic environment, "Apparently figures parental figures people who are normally supposed to be taking care of you and protecting you are now you're jailers and your sources of threat so that's a very hazardous emotional condition for a child to be in and that will take off a bit of healing to recover from.

Dr. Embry says while the process may be a long one there are healthy ingredients involved in treatment that may help them heal including love and trust along with nurturing in, "food and fun and fellowship with other human beings are the possibilities for healing from those experiences, Embry said, "and not forcing the children over and over to relive what has happened to them."

Dr. Embry says another big part of the healing process will be to not treat the victims as if they are mentally ill, but rather as people that something bad happened to.

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9 months ago

3 Tucson girls allegedly held captive, Tucson Police release new details

TUCSON - Tucson Police detectives are calling it a disturbing case of abuse and neglect, children allegedly kept in filthy living conditions and fed once a day.

Officers were called to the home in the 28 hundred block of North Estrella Avenue Tuesday morning. It's near Glenn and Stone.

A 911 call reporting domestic violence led police to a horrifying situation.

Three girls tell officers that they'd been kept in their bedrooms for several months, possibly up to two years.

34-year-old Fernando Richter and 32-year-old Sophia Richter were booked into the Pima County Jail on kidnapping and child abuse charges.

The Richter's spent the night behind bars in the Pima County Jail, perhaps getting a sense of what their daughters say they felt, held captive up to two years. The two younger girls tell police they were locked in a separate bedroom from their older sister.

Inside this home police say abuse, neglect, and imprisonment took place.

Cpt. Mike Gillooly says, "All three juveniles were extremely dirty as I mentioned, and malnourished, and stated that they had no bathed within the last four to six months."

Cpt. Gillooly says the girls, ages 12, 13 and 17 were held captive inside their rooms behind lock and key.

"They were kept in filthy living conditions, separately and told patrol officers that they had no seen each other in almost two years," says Cpt. Gillooly.

Freedom came when the two younger girls ran to a neighbors home in the middle of the night.

"Alleging that their stepfather had kicked in their bedroom door, attempting to assault them with a knife," says Gillooly, "During the course of that investigation it was alleged by the girls that they had been imprisoned in their bedroom for approximately the past two years."

When police entered the home around four Tuesday morning they discovered the 17-year-old sister. All three girls were removed from the home and their parents were arrested.

Each are facing six counts of child abuse, and three counts of kidnapping. The girls' step father, is also facing one count of sex abuse with a child under 15.

TPD's evidence truck was brought in to haul away clues that could help investigators piece together what happened in this house, and why.

The Richter's will make their first court appearance Wednesday morning.

9 months ago

Neighbor who helped save the girls who were imprisoned for 2 years speaks to News 4

TUCSON - The woman who helped save the girls who were being held captive in a Midtown home for two years and neighbors surrounding the home are speaking out to News 4 Tucson.

Alice said the girls were distraught and very hysterical when they came to her. The girls then told her that their stepdad broke down a door and had a knife.

She asked them to come inside her home and called 911. Alice asked the girls where they lived and why she had never seen them before. The girls told her they were not supposed to be seen.

She is not the only one who didn't know the children were living in the house.

Dorothy Wait said, "We didn't have no idea, that's how hush hush they were. Obviously, I mean that's just horrible. I just don't believe it, I can't believe it, I've got girls of my own, and I could never imagine that."

Dave Lenckus, who lives around the area, said that about a year ago he helped a pizza delivery girl find the home where the girls were being imprisoned. He said he never saw or heard anything and nothing looked out of the ordinary.

"Oh my God, I am speechless. I did not know that. That probably explains the arguing," said Selena Soto. She said she walks by the house everyday on her way to school and has seen the couple arguing on multiple occasions."

Donna Tatro walks her dog everyday by the house. She told News 4 Tucson her message to the parents, "All children do not belong to us. They are loaned to us by God, to take care of them for him."

The neighbors say they are praying for the girls and also thanking Alice for being their angel.

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9 months ago

Parents' names released in child imprisonment case

TUCSON - News 4 Tucson is learning the names of two adults involved in the child imprisonment investigation.

Tucson police say the two involved are 34-year-old Fernando Richter and 32-year-old Sophia Richter.

TPD officers responded to a residence in the 2800 block of North Estrella Avenue regarding a domestic violence fight involving a knife.

Officers spoke with two young girls, ages 12 and 13, who had ran to the neighbor's house alleging that their step-father had tried to break into their bedroom with a knife. The girls alleged that they had been imprisoned in their bedrooms for at least the last several months and possibly up to two years.

An investigation revealed that there was a 17-year-old sister who was still in the house in a different bedroom.

Officers entered the home and found a third girl was locked in a bedroom. Police say all three girls were extremely dirty and stated they had not bathed in 4 to 6 months and alleged only being fed once a day.

The step-father, Fernando Richter, and mother, Sophia Richter are both booked into the Pima County Jail.


Fernando Richter is facing 3 counts of Kidnapping, 3 counts of child abuse, 3 counts of child abuse and 1 count of sexual abuse with a person under 15 years of age.


Sophia Richter is facing 3 counts of kidnapping, 3 counts of child abuse, 3 counts of emotional abuse, and 3 counts of child abuse.

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9 months ago

TPD: 3 girls, malnourished and filthy, imprisoned 2 years

TUCSON - Tucson Police just held a news conference providing further detail about the child imprisonment investigation that started Tuesday morning.

According to Captain Mike Gillooly:

Two girls-- 12 and 13 years old-- went to a neighbor for help at 4 a.m. Tuesday reporting that their step dad had threatened them with a knife. They reported that they had been held captive for two years.

Police responded to the home and found another teen, aged 17, in the home.

Officers discovered the children in filthy condition. Gillooly said they they hadn't bathed in 3 to 6 months. Gillooly said two of the minors were kept from the third for 2 years.

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