Arraignment for Tucson couple accused of imprisoning 3 girls - WSMV News 4

Arraignment for Tucson couple accused of imprisoning three girls

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Not guilty pleas were entered Friday for the Tucson couple accused of holding three sisters captive.

Sophia and Fernando Richter appeared in Pima County Superior Court to be arraigned on charges of kidnapping and child abuse.

Fernando Richter also is charged with aggravated assault.

The teenaged sisters are Sophia Richter's children.

Police said the Richters imprisoned the girls in filthy conditions in their midtown home.

Investigators said the children had been kept in dungeon-like isolation and confinement for up to two years.

The Richters appeared in court, by closed circuit, from the Pima County Jail.

They appeared very quite and subdued.

Fernando Richter appeared to be reading the paperwork in front of him, but when he raised his head, you could see the blackened left eye.

His hands were cuffed behind him.

No word on where the injury came from, however, Richter also has been booked in connection with an aggravated assault on a jail officer.

Sophia Richter appeared separately.

She was not handcuffed.

She seemed not to have changed from the last time we saw her in video court, right after her arrest.

Members of her family were in the courtroom.

Outside the courthouse, Sophia Richter's sister and maternal grandmother told us they have been in shock since the arrest.

They both have seen her in jail.

Richter's grandmother, Erma Ferris, says she feels Richter has been in denial.

"I don't think she really realizes what's happening here. I don't even--this was a couple of weeks ago. Maybe now she's facing it more because I haven't seen her since then, but I think she's in kind of like--don't know what to say or think or do," Ferris says.

Sophia Richter's older sister, Chame Bueno says, "I can't say that she's in denial. I just don't think that she knows the--she's in her right mind to know what place that she's in right now."

Both women say they think Fernando Richter had strong control over Sophia.

They say they saw the girls during a supervised visit.

The women say they don't know where the girls are staying, but they are safe and seem to be doing well.

They say no one talked about what happened, however, the girls were very clear about one thing.

"That they don't want to see their stepfather ever again, but they do--one of them would like to see their mother. But they don't want their mother in charge of them as of right now," Ferris says.

"Oh. I love my nieces. My nieces are always a big part of our family, and it just was a big shocking because the sister I once knew would've never done this. And I hate what has happened and what she has done, but on the other hand, she's still my sister," Bueno says.

Bueno says, when news first broke about this case, she thought it was about someone else.

"It kind of humbled us in the situation because, before when I seen the thing--Oh, man those people need to get in trouble. Then when I found out it was my sister, and it was like a big slap in the face because you never know that your family ever is capable of doing something like that," Bueno says.

Asked how this could have happened, Ferris says, "I have no idea. No idea. I know she was very protective of her children at one time, but then that just kind of went to the wayside. We thought they were in California all this time. We tried to get ahold of them. I have talked to her, but she had a California number and I thought she was there."

Bueno says, "These past years, they've--well, my sister became very distant with all of us, went her own way with him and really haven't had anything to do with us."

The Richter's next court date is January 14th for a case management hearing.

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