Arizona police reported Wednesday that three girls were allegedly held captive by their stepfather and mother at their Tucson, Arizona home and were monitored constantly by video while bombarded by music and white noise.
Tucson, Arizona Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said the music was concealed by the sealed duct work in the house and that towels were shoved under doors in a successful effort to keep the sound from being heard outside the girls’ bedrooms.
Bail was set on Wednesday at $100,000 for stepfather Fernando Richter, age 34. Sophia Richter, age 32, had her bail set at $75,000. The couples face several accounts of child abuse and kidnapping. Fernando Richter faces one additional count of sexual abuse.
According to local news reports, the girls, who were aged 12, 13, and 17, were first held at a home in Catalina, Arizona, from March 2011 until August of this year. Both neighbors in Tucson and in Catalina said that they had never observed any sign of children while the family occupied the home.
Police on Wednesday were also said to be reading over a journal that apparently the 17-year-old kept while she and the other two girls were held captive. Villasenor declined to reveal what the diary said.
Authorities report that the two younger sisters made their escape through a bedroom window and were able to call upon a neighbor for help after Fernando Richter tried to break down the door to their bedroom and was said to be wielding a knife.
It was later found that the oldest child was held in a different room than her two sisters. Police report that the girls had not had a bath in approximately six months and were very malnourished.
It was also determined when the girls last attended school. Sophia Richter told police the children were being home-schooled. Investigators were trying to determine the last time the girls attended a school. Villasenor said Richter claims the children were home-schooled.
All three girls were consistent in the story of their captivity and are now in custody of a state child welfare agency.
Chame Bueno, the girls’ maternal aunt had been told by the mother that the family was residing in San Diego and would never let her speak to her nieces when she would call them on the phone. She also said that the stepfather abused his wife mentally. However, Bueno said Sophia Richter was always quick to brag on how good of a father that Fernando Richter was to the girls and how he was taking such good care of all of them.
Sophia Richter did speak with investigators but no details were provided to the press as far as what was said. Fernando Richter refused to have any conversation with law enforcement authorities.
Villasenor said police had made a few calls to the home but none regarded child welfare or suspicion of children being held captive.
A nearby resident had lived in the neighborhood for five years and had no idea that anyone was even living in the home. There was never any visible activity at the house although they claimed they often thought they heard the sound of children playing inside the home in the evening.
By Rick Hope