Three girls who were kept imprisoned in a Tucson home by their mother and stepfather were monitored by video, forced to march in place at wee hours of the morning and weren't allowed to use bathrooms, a prosecutor said Friday in the criminal case against their parents.
Frances M. Kreamer Hope said the girls were rarely allowed to use the bathroom, using their closet instead and sending a stench of urine through the house, even though their air duct vents had been taped shut and the bottom of their doors were blocked by towels. The girls, who were 12, 13 and 17 years old when they escaped on Nov. 26, 2013, are going to testify on another day.
Their parents, Fernando and Sophia Richter, face several charges of kidnapping, domestic violence and child abuse. They have pleaded not guilty.
"No one was supposed to know that they were there, and the sad reality is that for a number of years no one knew (the girls) were there," Kreamer Hope said.
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The girls were monitored via cameras and not allowed to leave their rooms during the three to four months they lived in the Tucson home. Prior to that, they lived in a nearby town called Catalina in Pinal County, where they were also abused, the prosecutor said. The Richters also face a separate criminal case in Pinal County, including charges of kidnapping and child abuse. They have pleaded not guilty in that case too.
But defense attorney Paul Skitzki, who represents Fernando Richter, said the state doesn't have enough evidence to prove the crimes. He said his client's mother will testify to having seen the girls roam freely around the house and even leave for outings.
He cast doubt on the girls' stories. "You're gonna hear that these girls were not very happy with the relationship between my client and their mother," Skitzki said.
The trial is expected to take several weeks because of the large number of witnesses who are going to testify, including the girls. The court will not say when the girls are going to deliver testimony.
Kreamer Hope said the two younger girls were kept separated from their older sister and weren't allowed to interact with her. They escaped two years ago during a violent rage by Fernando Richter, who Kreamer Hope said had broken the door to the younger girls' room while holding a knife. The older of the two girls opened the window and they escaped to a neighbor's house.
But the escape came after years of physical and emotional abuse, Kreamer Hope said. She said the younger girls were forced to wake up at 2 a.m. every day and were forced to move their feet back in forth as if walking in place. The girls weren't allowed to stop and went on so long that their feet and legs ached, Kreamer Hope said. They were fed rancid pasta and forced to finish every meal by licking their plate.