KGUN 9News


Daughter said she was scared to try and escape

Posted at 9:29 PM, Nov 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-18 23:29:57-05
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - "I never tried it, I was too scared." That was how a teenaged girl explained why she never left her room without her parents permission.
That was part of the testimony from one of three girls who say their mother and stepfather kept them prisoners for about two years.
Fernando and Sohphia Richter are on trial for kidnapping and child abuse in the case.  
It began almost exactly two years ago when two of the girls ran from the house and told neighbors and police their stepfather threatened them with a knife.
When police searched the house a few days before Thanksgiving two years ago, they found another girl locked inside.
Today one of the daughters of Fernando and Sophia Richter sat in a witness stand and told a jury how her parents kept her a prisoner.
The girl was thirteen at the time.
She and a sister broke away from the home and today she said she was too scared to even try to escape.
To protect the privacy of all the girls Judge Paul Tang asked that they be known only by initials and you also will not see their faces.
The first girl to testify was B.A.
Sophia Richter cried as her daughter, now 15 took the witness stand.
She said she and her sisters were forced to get up as early as 2 a.m. and shuffle through an exercise they called mumbling.  She said it could last hours.
"My feet would begin to hurt.  My legs would get sore and when my mother said it was time to use the bathroom I wouldn't be able to walk correctly.  I would walk really slow.  My feet felt like it was deformed all the time."
B.A. said if they slacked off, they knew their stepfather Fernando Richter might see on surveillance cameras, and send a burst of static into their room on an intercom to warn them punishment might be coming.
She said one time her stepfather spanked her bare bottom with a metal spoon for something she did in her sleep, an odd motion he saw on surveillance that set him off.
The girl says she wasn't starved, she was forced to eat and punished if she didn't eat fast enough. She said at first the food was good but it declined to the oily macaroni mix police found in the house.
"I didn't want to get in trouble for not eating my food or telling anybody it was nasty.  I was grateful.  I wanted to make my mother and Fernando proud so so I ate it."
B.A. described standing in front of a camera to ask permission to use the bathroom, the pain of holding it when permission didn't come, then relieving herself in the closet.
She said she didn't know how long she went without a shower just that it was a long, long time.
B.A. said Fernando Richter told her the girls were treated that way because they were not his daughters.  He had the right to make the rules and that how things would be.
She said she never defied Fernando Richter's orders to stay in her room because she feared punishment too much.  She says sometimes she and her sisters were allowed out to watch videos or even for special treats but usually were so restricted they had to stand in front of surveillance cameras and signal to go to the bathroom.
Sometimes the permission would not come in time.
"My stomach would be hurting and I had no other way to go.  So I would go on the floor I was just standing on or I would go in the closet."
In some ways the teenager seemed resigned to her confinement or even appreciative of anything she could get.  Soon after she was free of the house, she said the only water she would get was in a moldy plastic jug.
B.A was asked how the water tasted in the water jugs?
"It tasted good like, I was always thirsty so when I got water I was like thank you.  I would just drink and I would be like Oh my gosh this water is so good.  I was grateful for everything I had.  I didn't care if it was bathtub water or sink water.  If I got water that's all that matters."
Police described speakers in the house with music so loud no one could hear anything else, sometimes playing nothing but loud static.
B.A. said she actually liked the music and said the static was just an old radio acting up.  But prosecutors reminded her of her earlier interview with investigators when she said Sophia Richter told her the sound was to make sure no one in the outside world could hear what went on in the house.
The girl said she wasn't starved.  She was forced to eat too much and punished if she didn't eat fast enough. She said the girls were fed good food at first, but it later became the mixture of macaroni and scraps police said they found in the house.
She also described her parents forcing her to get up at 2 a.m. and shuffle in place for hours on end.  If they slacked off or sat down their parents would send a burst of noise down an intercom to warn them they'd be punished.