Mother who kept girls captive had lost, regained custody

2013-11-29T00:00:00Z Mother who kept girls captive had lost, regained custodyBy Kimberly Matas Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Family interviews, court documents and her own statements to police are revealing more about the woman accused of holding her three daughters captive in deplorable conditions.

Sophia Leeann Richter, 32, and her husband, Fernando Hernandez Richter, 34, were jailed and face numerous kidnapping and child-abuse charges. And Fernando Richter is facing one count of sexual abuse of a minor. The charges stem from allegations that they kept Richter’s three daughters, ages 12, 13 and 17, captive. A judge on Wednesday set bail of $100,000 for the stepfather and $75,000 for the mother.

The malnourished girls told police their mother and stepfather kept them isolated in a north-side home in filthy conditions, where they were fed sparingly, kept under constant video surveillance and subjected to blaring music 24 hours a day.

The investigation began early Tuesday when the two younger girls escaped from their home and ran for help, saying their stepfather threatened them with a knife. A neighbor called 911. The girls told police their older sister was still in the house. Officers found the 17-year-old girl locked in a room.

Police said the girls were kept isolated and that neighbors and extended family members didn’t know they were living in the home.

Sophia Richter lied to family members about their whereabouts, The Associated Press reported.

Chame Bueno, 34, told the AP that Fernando Richter was mentally abusive toward his wife and that Sophia Richter said her family was living in San Diego when they actually were in Tucson.

“She always talked him up, ‘Oh well, he pays for all my kids’ clothes and he takes them here, and he takes them to eat and do this’ — and all that time being locked up in a room,” Bueno told the AP.

Sophia Richter has no previous record of arrest in Tucson and Pima County, but Fernando Richter does.

In October 2007 Fernando Richter pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.

The Tucson Police Department released a booking photo of Fernando Richter from a March 2012 arrest in connection with disorderly conduct, assault and criminal damage, however the court dismissed all of those charges.

As part of the 2012 case, the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona (CPSA), according to online court documents, did a review. The results of the CPSA review are not disclosed.

According to court documents, the couple had been dating since 2003 and wed in 2010. There is no indication they have children together.

Just days after her 15th birthday in 1996, Sophia Richter, then Sophia Pulido, gave birth to her eldest daughter. The baby’s father was a minor too.

In 2002, Sophia Richter wed the father of her two younger daughters. They filed for divorced less than a year later.

Richter was granted custody of her two younger daughters in May 2003, but by December 2003, the custody agreement was modified, giving the father sole custody, documents from Pima County Superior Court state.

A 2005 letter from Child Protective Services included with custody documents filed with the court shows the agency was in contact with the family.

The letter, sent to the father of the two younger girls, states that allegations of physical abuse made against him by his ex-wife were unsubstantiated. The letter also suggested one of the girls could benefit from counseling.

In 2006 Richter filed to regain custody over the objections of the paternal grandparents.

Contact reporter Kimberly Matas at kmatas@azstarnet.com or 573-4191.

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