Journal details alleged imprisonment of three sisters by parents in Arizona

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Police on Wednesday were poring over a journal that they say a 17-year-old girl kept while she and her two younger sisters were imprisoned by their mother and stepfather for up to two years.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said investigators were combing through the diary for evidence as they build a criminal case against the 32-year-old mother and 34-year-old stepfather.

Chief Villasenor declined to reveal the diary's contents but said the teen kept one of her most prized possessions -- a photo of singer Enrique Iglesias -- in the journal, which was kept inside a satchel.

"It did contain a lot of information that I feel will be useful in helping us to determine the method and length of the imprisonment," Chief Villasenor said.

Investigators said the two younger girls, ages 12 and 13, escaped through the window of the bedroom they shared and alerted a neighbor Tuesday after the stepfather tried to break down the room's door and was brandishing a knife.

Police later discovered the 17-year-old was being held separately from her sisters in another room. The three girls were malnourished and dirty and told officers they hadn't taken a bath in up to six months.

Investigators were trying to determine the last time the girls attended a school. No schools in the area had a record of them, Chief Villasenor said, and police haven't been able to verify the mother's claims that the children were home-schooled.

The girls' accounts of being held in captivity were consistent, Chief Villasenor said. They are now together at a group home in the custody of a state child welfare agency.

A judge set bail of $100,000 for the stepfather, Fernando Richter, and $75,000 for the mother, Sophia Richter, at their initial court appearances Wednesday. They face multiple counts of kidnapping and child abuse, and Fernando Richter also faces one count of sexual abuse.

The brief court appearances made by video did not include entering pleas, and it wasn't immediately clear whether the man and woman had lawyers.

The girls' maternal aunt, Chame Bueno, said outside the court hearing that the mother had said the family was living in San Diego when they actually were in Tucson and wouldn't let her speak with her nieces on the phone.

Chief Villasenor said there were motion sensors on the doors to the girls' bedrooms and video cameras trained on their bed. If the girls needed to use the bathroom, there was an unspecified signal for them to let the parents know they needed a bathroom break.

There were locks on the girls' bedroom doors, the police chief said, but another method, which he declined to reveal, was used to keep the girls from escaping.

Music blared loudly and constantly from the girls' bedrooms, and duct work was sealed and towels were forced against doors to prevent the sound from being heard outside, Chief Villasenor said.

Police were investigating whether the girls had also been imprisoned in a home in Catalina, about 20 miles north of Tucson, where the family lived previously.

Chief Villasenor said police made a few prior visits to the family's home, but none pertained to the children being held in captivity.


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