The girls’ mother, Sophia Richter, 32, and stepfather Fernando Richter, 34, were arrested on many charges of child abuse and imprisonment. The charges also include one count of sexual abuse of a minor. They were taken to Pima County Jail.
The couple appeared in court Wednesday, where a judge set bail of $100,000 for the stepfather and $75,000 for the mother. Pleas were not entered.
The sisters—ages 12, 13 and 17—were reportedly fed once a day, and were malnourished and filthy, having not bathed in months. The two youngest girls were locked in one bedroom, and the 17-year-old in another bedroom. The two younger girls said they had not seen their oldest sister for two years.
The imprisonment and abuse was discovered when the two younger girls escaped their Tucson home and went to a neighbor’s house, where the neighbor called 911. The girls claim their stepfather had broken down their bedroom door and threatened them with a knife. When police arrived at the home, the 17-year-old was discovered still locked in her bedroom.
The Tucson sisters were imprisoned in their home for years via around-the-clock surveillance, with alarms set up throughout the home. Music was also on constant blast.
Neighbors reportedly said they had no clue the Tucson sisters had been imprisoned in their home for two years. One neighbor appeared shocked when told about the sisters, and one neighbor is reported as saying she never saw any activity at the Richter home but other neighbors reportedly heard children playing inside the Central Tucson home at night.
Mother convicted of baby’s death in Pima County, Tucson
Twenty-two-year-old Olivia Martinez was sentenced Tuesday to more than 10 years in prison. She was charged with not seeking medical help for her baby after she had been cruelly squeezed by her father. The baby, Vanessa, was 11 weeks old when she died. Martinez had pled guilty to manslaughter but the prosecution called for a harsher sentence, claiming Martinez was avoiding responsibility in her baby’s death.
Martinez had reportedly brought her baby to bed with her after the baby’s father, Jonathan Kesterson, 26, had squeezed Vanessa. The baby had suffered fractured ribs and internal damage. When she died, both Martinez and Kesterson drove to the desert and buried her. Kesterson killed himself in jail in Pima County in 2012.
Child Abuse Cases in Arizona
Arizona Child Protective Services (CPS) has been under fire in regards to child abuse cases throughout Arizona. The director of CPS, Clarence Carter, was told by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer that his department had overlooked and neglected to investigate 6,000 child abuse cases over the past four years. This calls into question the matter of accountability and thoroughness in a department already rife with disorganization and a heavy workload. The child abuse cases had been reported to the CPS hotline but there was no followup or investigation.
To solve the problem, Carter has set up a plan to have CPS thoroughly investigate and solve the child abuse cases within two months. The short time frame forces everyone within CPS to work together with the social workers to thoroughly investigate and close the cases, which had been illegally closed with zero investigation.
By Juana Poareo