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Couple face new charges of alleged imprisonment

  • Article by: JACQUES BILLEAUD
  • Associated Press
  • January 31, 2014 - 6:10 PM

FLORENCE, Ariz. — A couple accused of imprisoning the wife's daughters in a Tucson home now face new charges in a second Arizona county where they lived previously.

Fernando and Sophia Richter pleaded not guilty Friday in Pinal County Superior Court to child abuse and kidnapping charges. Fernando Richter also pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated assault, sexual abuse and child molestation.

The Richters were arrested Nov. 26 in Tucson and later indicted in Pima County on kidnapping and child-abuse charges. The couple moved to Tucson last year from the Pinal County community of Catalina, about 20 miles north of Tucson.

Authorities had discovered that the girls — ages 12, 13 and 17 — were being held captive when the two younger girls escaped in late November through their bedroom window and alerted a neighbor.

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.

Though police have provided details of their girls' captivity in Tucson during a three-month period that ended in late November, few specifics have been provided on the alleged abuse the children suffered in Pinal County, where authorities have said the majority of the crimes occurred from March 2011 through last August.

Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles and the Tucson Police Department, which is the lead police agency in the case, declined on Friday to reveal any details of the investigation of the Pinal County allegations.

"As for the facts, there will be a time and place where we will reveal that information," Voyles said.

The Pinal County indictments say Fernando Richter is accused of hitting some of the victims with items such as a metal spoon and a stick. One of the victims, the indictment said, suffered a bloody nose after being hit by Fernando Richter.

The Richters were each assigned attorneys, though it wasn't immediately clear who those lawyers were.

Leon Thikoll, an attorney who is defending Fernando Richter on a charge of assaulting a Pima County jail officer, spoke on his client's behalf in Pinal County court. Outside of court, he declined to comment, saying a gag order has been issued for attorneys in the Pima County case against the Richters.

A Pinal County judge ordered Fernando Richter, 34, held without bond. Bond for Sophia Richter, 32, was set at $100,000. The judge also scheduled March 10 pretrial conferences for the couple.

If convicted of all 15 counts against him, Fernando Richter faces up to 128 years in prison, while Sophia Richer would face up to 83 years in prison if convicted of the nine counts against her, the Pinal County Attorney's Office said.

Authorities have said the three girls are in state custody and living together.

© 2014 Star Tribune