Tucson Sisters Were Under Constant Surveillance in Home, Police Chief Says

PHOTO: This Nov. 26, 2013 photo shows the home where three girls were allegedly imprisoned by their mother and stepfather, in Tucson, Ariz.PlayMike Christy/Arizona Daily Star/AP Photo
WATCH 3 Girls Say They Were Imprisoned in Arizona Home

Inside the unassuming single-story Tucson, Ariz., home where three sisters were allegedly held captive, police said every aspect of the girls' lives were controlled by their mother and stepfather.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor said the sisters -- ages 12, 13 and 17 -- were being watched on surveillance video by their parents and would put on a black cap and raise their hands when they needed to go to the bathroom.

"They'd let them go to the bathroom, take them back and put them back into the room," Villaseñor said at a news conference Wednesday night.

If the parents didn't see the signal or decided they didn't want to let their children out to use the bathroom, the police chief said the girls were forced to relieve themselves in closets inside their respective bedrooms.

"We did find several bags with a lot of clothing contaminated by human waste in the closets, also jars of what appears to possibly be human waste as well," Villaseñor said.

Police said the family moved into the Tucson home in August of this year, but the girls said they were also held captive for up to two years at previous residences.

Villaseñor said there were no records of enrollment for the girls at local schools; however, police weren't able to disprove the mother's alleged statement that her daughters were homeschooled.

Oldest Girl Was Allegedly Isolated From Sisters

The police chief described a dungeonlike home where the bedrooms were wired with alarms and had the duct work sealed off, making them virtually soundproof. He said music was constantly played into the bedrooms to further muffle any sounds.

While the two youngest sisters were allegedly held in the same bedroom, Villaseñor said the oldest girl was kept isolated from the others and appeared to have not seen them "in quite some time."

During that time, the police chief said, the girl kept a journal that chronicles at least a year and a half of her life.

The journal was kept inside a satchel that police took as evidence, Villaseñor said. Also inside the bag was a photograph of singer Enrique Iglesias, which "the juvenile girl said was probably her most prized possession," the police chief said.

"Obviously Mr. Iglesias is an important aspect with her and helped her psychologically to deal with this situation," he said, adding that the photograph was returned to the teenager.

Youngest Sisters Broke Free Tuesday Morning

The two youngest sisters escaped from the home early Tuesday morning when police said the girls' stepfather, Fernando Richter, 34, attempted to break into their bedroom while brandishing a knife.

The oldest sister and the two younger ones "were kept in filthy living conditions separately and told patrol officers they had not seen each other in almost two years and were kept separate within the bedrooms within that house," Mike Gillooly, a captain with the Tucson Police Department, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The girls ran to a neighbor's house, Gillooly said, where an unidentified neighbor called 911. When officers entered the home, Gillooly said they found the oldest sister locked in a bedroom.

Richter and his wife, Sophia Richter, the girls' mother, were arrested and booked into Pima County Jail on child abuse and kidnapping charges, according to Sgt. Chris Widmer of the Tucson Police Department.

Widmer said Fernando Richter faces an additional charge of sexual abuse with a person under 15 years of age.

The Richters have not yet entered pleas and it was unknown if they had hired an attorney.

A judge set bail of $100,000 for the stepfather and $75,000 for their mother at a brief court appearance on Wednesday.