TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The oldest of three sisters who police say were imprisoned by their parents in an Arizona home testified Thursday that she was confined to a bed in her room for months until the younger girls escaped and alerted police.
The girl was 17 when her mother, Sophia Richter, and stepfather, Fernando Richter, were charged with child abuse, kidnapping and domestic violence.
Now 19, she has graduated from high school at the top of her class and plans on going to college.
She was the last of the three sisters to take the witness stand in the case and reiterated their accounts of abuse and bizarre rules imposed by the parents.
Among other things, the oldest sister testified that she was kept in a room alone and not allowed to get off her bed during the three to four months the family lived in the Tucson home.
She wasn’t permitted to shower or brush her teeth a single time, she added.
The girls said they were afraid of Fernando Richter because he would beat them with wire, sticks or metal spoons if they broke a rule.
One sister who testified Wednesday said the mother and father monitored the two youngest girls in their room with video cameras and would not let them use a bathroom, forcing them to urinate and defecate in their closets.
The oldest sister described the plastic water jugs they were given as moldy and the meals they were fed twice a day as rancid.
“It was nasty. Gagging nasty,” she testified. “We would have to lick our plates if we wanted them clean and if not my mom would just throw more food on it if I didn’t lick it.”
Fernando and Sophia Richter have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The Associated Press does not generally name minors who authorities say are victims of crimes.
Attorney Paul Skitzki, who represents Fernando Richter, said during opening statements that the state doesn’t have enough evidence to prove its allegations. He said his client’s mother will testify to having seen the girls roam freely around the house and even leave for outings.
However, the youngest sister testified Thursday that the girls were punished routinely until the escape in 2013.
“We’d make one little mistake — we’d go pee on the carpet— and he’d whoop us like seven times,” she said.
The oldest girl said she had been so isolated that she didn’t recognize her sisters after police arrived.
She wept as she recounted passing the time confined to her bed.
“I would write music and I would just think and sing. I was crazy. I was by myself, nobody would talk to me. I would just talk to myself and that’s all I would do,” she said.
Before moving to Tucson, the family lived in Catalina, a nearby town in Pinal County, where separate kidnapping and child abuse counts are pending.