Tucson woman accused in child abuse case reaches plea deal

April 15, 2019

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — An Arizona woman convicted of keeping her three daughters imprisoned at home for three months and sentenced to 20 years in prison before a court ordered a new trial reached a plea agreement Monday.

Sophia Richter pleaded guilty to five total kidnapping and child abuse charges in Pima and Pinal counties, according to Tucson TV stations KGUN and KOLD.

State prosecutors dropped five counts of dangerous crimes against children charges in return for Richter’s plea.

KGUN reports she could face 17½ years or more in prison when she is sentenced June 10.

Richter and her husband, who is the children’s stepfather, were accused of keeping her daughters locked in their rooms for three months in 2013 and and denied them bathroom access.

The girls testified at trial that they were forced to wake up every day at 2 a.m. to march in place, sometimes for so long that their legs ached. They told jurors they were fed rancid food and forced to overeat or face punishment.

Tucson police officers testified the house smelled so bad of urine and feces they had to open all the windows to conduct their investigation.

The Richters faced a separate criminal trial in Pinal County, where the family lived before moving to Tucson and where police said the majority of the crimes occurred.

The girls were ages 12, 13 and 17 when the two youngest escaped from their room in November 2013 and asked a neighbor for help, according to authorities.

Richter and her husband faced 24 counts of child abuse and kidnapping and were tried together.

She was convicted in 2016 and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2017. But the Arizona Supreme Court reversed her convictions last August and ordered a new trial.

The state Court of Appeals ruled a trial judge erred in not letting Richter introduce a defense that she was compelled to commit the crimes by her husband’s threats and use of force.

Fernando Richter is serving a 58-year prison term after being convicted of child abuse, kidnapping and aggravated assault.