Three malnourished sisters told Tucson police they were held in captivity and filth for up to two years until two of them escaped early Tuesday to a neighbor’s house, after their stepfather allegedly threatened them with a knife.
Police found the third girl locked in a bedroom of the north-side Tucson home, where she said she had been isolated and not allowed to see her sisters for two years.
Their stepfather, Fernando Richter, 34, and their mother, Sophia Richter, 32, were booked into the Pima County jail Tuesday, said Sgt. Chris Widmer, a Tucson Police Department spokesman.
Both face three counts of kidnapping, three counts of emotional child abuse and three counts of physical child abuse, Widmer said. Fernando Richter also faces one count of sexual abuse with a person under 15 years old, Widmer said.
Police went to the home in the 2800 block of North Estrella Avenue, near North Stone Avenue and East Glenn Street, at about 4 a.m. Tuesday on reports of a domestic violence incident, said police Capt. Michael Gillooly, head of violent-crimes investigations.
When officers arrived, they found two girls, ages 12 and 13, who said they were in a bedroom in the house when their stepfather kicked in the door and threatened them with a knife.
The sisters told officers they ran out of the house and went to a neighbor’s house. The neighbor called 911.
The sisters alleged they had been imprisoned in their bedroom “for at least the last several months and possibly up to two years,” Widmer said.
When officers went into the house, they found a 17-year-old girl in another bedroom, Gillooly said. That bedroom was locked.
All three sisters were “extremely dirty” and malnourished, authorities said. The girls were “kept in filthy living conditions and alleged only being fed once a day,” Widmer said.
The sisters told officers they hadn’t taken a bath in four to six months. The two younger girls said they hadn’t seen the 17-year-old sibling in about two years.
Gillooly said the two younger girls were kept separate from the older girl, in separate bedrooms.
The sisters were removed from the home Tuesday, but Gillooly would not say if they were hospitalized.
He did not answer any questions about the case during a news conference. He said more information is expected to be released today, or as it becomes available.
“We are doing all we can to make sure these kids are kept safe,” Gillooly said.
A resident who has lived in the neighborhood for about five years said she didn’t know anyone was living in the home, which is set back from the street.
She said there was no activity visible at the house, but that another neighbor said she heard what sounded like children playing inside the house at night.
Detectives removed plastic bags filled with evidence from the home. They also removed what appeared to be a computer tower. The items from the house were placed into a truck, which left the property after about two hours.
On the front porch of the single-story house is a sign warning that the property is under video security surveillance. Two red chairs were also visible on the porch.
The one-story rental house has three bedrooms and two baths, and is about 1,500 square feet. It sits back about 200 feet from the street.
Most of the homes in the neighborhood are rentals, the neighbor said.
Online records show the current owner of the home is listed as a resident of Cave Creek.