Arizona sisters testify they were beaten, imprisoned by parents

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 20, 2015 1:22 AM

By Brad Poole

Tucson, Arizona (Reuters) - The oldest of three sisters who prosecutors said were held captive in Arizona by their mother and stepfather for two years testified on Thursday the siblings endured regular beatings and were terrified they would be killed if they ran away.

The girls' parents, Fernando Richter, 36, and Sophia Richter, 34, have been charged with keeping their three daughters in prison-like conditions, beating them with belts and sticks and confining them in their bedrooms or closets with music or static blaring constantly.

“We were only allowed out of our room to go to the bathroom,” the middle daughter, now 15, testified on Wednesday.

Their parents have pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping and child abuse.

The sisters spent two days on the witness stand where they recounted being beaten with belts, television coaxial cables, a wooden stick and large kitchen spoons.

They were held in at least two Tucson-area homes until November 2013, when the two youngest – then 12 and 13 - escaped through their bedroom window, authorities have said.

Their stepfather had warned the girls against trying to seek help, the oldest daughter testified on Thursday.

"He told us if we ever ran away, he would catch us. He told me he would kill me the first chance he got," she said.

None of the girls attended school past ninth grade, though they were supposed to be home schooled, they said.

The youngest daughter, now 14, suffered the worst beatings, mostly at the hands of their stepfather, the middle sister testified.

“Sometimes I would just hear her scream, telling him to stop. Sometimes I saw scars on her back, and cuts and bruises,” she testified.

The teens said they were prevented from using the restroom for hours at a time, held in unsanitary conditions and awakened daily at 2 a.m. to perform a ritual called "mumble," or marching in place beside their beds.

Their captivity was detailed in the oldest daughter's secret journal using crayons that eventually became tiny nubs and writing on pages torn from an old textbook, she said.

Fernando Richter and Sophia Richter had been together for about 10 years and married for three or four years, police said after their arrest.

The trial is expected to continue next week.

(Editing by Victoria Cavaliere and Sanjeev Miglani)