TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Police on Wednesday were poring over a journal they say a 17-year-old girl kept while she and her two younger sisters were imprisoned by their mother and stepfather for up to two years.
Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said investigators were combing through the diary for evidence as they build a criminal case against the 32-year-old mother and 34-year-old stepfather.
He declined to reveal the diary's contents but said the teen kept one of her most prized possessions — a photo of singer Enrique Iglesias — in the journal, which was kept inside a satchel.
"It did contain a lot of information that I feel will be useful in helping us to determine the method and length of the imprisonment," Villasenor said.
Investigators said the two younger girls, ages 12 and 13, escaped through the window of the bedroom they shared and alerted a neighbor Tuesday after the stepfather tried to break down the room's door and was brandishing a knife.
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.
Investigators were trying to determine the last time the girls attended a school. No schools in the area had a record of them, Villasenor said, and police haven't been able to verify the mother's claims that the children were home-schooled.
The girls' accounts of being held in captivity were consistent, Villasenor said. They are now together at a group home in the custody of a state child welfare agency.
A judge set bail of $100,000 for the stepfather, Fernando Richter, and $75,000 for the mother, Sophia Richter, at their initial court appearances Wednesday. They face multiple counts of kidnapping and child abuse, and the Fernando Richter also faces one count of sexual abuse.
The brief court appearances made by video did not include entering pleas, and it wasn't immediately clear whether the man and woman had lawyers.
The girls' maternal aunt, Chame Bueno, said outside of the court hearing that the mother had said the family was living in San Diego when they actually were in Tucson and wouldn't let her speak with her nieces on the phone.
Bueno, 34, said the stepfather was mentally abusive toward his wife.
"She always talked him up, 'Oh well he pays for all my kids' clothes and he takes them here and he takes them to eat and do this' — and all that time being locked up in a room," Bueno, of Tucson, told The Associated Press. "And he hasn't done nothing she said. She has just been lying."
Villasenor said there were motion sensors on the doors to the girls' bedrooms and video cameras trained on their bed. If the girls needed to use the bathroom, there was an unspecified signal for them to let the parents know they needed a bathroom break.
There were locks on the girls' bedroom doors, the police chief said, but another method, which he declined to reveal, was used to keep the girls from escaping.
Music blared loudly and constantly from the girls' bedrooms, and duct work was sealed and towels were forced against doors to prevent the sound from being heard outside, Villasenor said.
Police were investigating whether the girls had also been imprisoned in a home in Catalina, about 20 miles north of Tucson, where the family lived previously.
The mother agreed to speak with investigators but Villasenor declined to provide details of what she said. The stepfather declined to speak with investigators, according to the police chief.
Villasenor said police made a few prior visits to the family's home, but none pertained to the children being held in captivity.
A resident who has lived in the neighborhood for about five years told the Arizona Daily Star that she didn't know anyone was living in the home, which is set back from the street.
The woman said there was no visible activity at the house, but other neighbors had told her that they had heard what sounded like children playing inside the house at night.
Also on HuffPost:
"Young L.A. Girl Slain; Body Slashed in Two" -L.A.'s Daily News
On January 15, 1947, the remains of Elizabeth Short, were found in a vacant lot in Los Angeles. What made this discovery the stuff of tabloid sensation, however, was the Glasgow smile left on the aspiring actress' face--made with 3-inch slashes on each side. This, coupled with Short's dark hair, fair complexion and reputation for sporting a dahlia in her hair, dubbed her "The Black Dahlia" in headlines. What followed was a media circus filled with rumors and speculation about the promiscuous 22-year-old's checkered past. What haunts theorists to this day, apart from the victim's uniquely nightmarish visage, is that the case remains unsolved after some 200 suspects were interviewed and ultimately released--making it one of Hollywood's most lurid legends.
"I Am Not Guilty - Thus Lizzie Borden Pleads Before Judge Hammond at New Bedford." -Boston Journal
<em>"Lizzie Borden took an axe And gave her mother forty whacks. And when she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one."</em> So goes the lurid nursery rhyme to one of the most mystifying crimes of the century. The nature of the deaths of Andrew J. Borden and his wife, Abby, are trumped only by the identity of the alleged perpetrator: their daughter, Lizzie. Inexplicably found "not guilty" in contrast to the era's zeitgeist of swift justice, Lizzie's legacy--guilty or not--has become immortalized as one of the most perplexing cases of parricide in history.
"Texas Mother Charged with Killing Her 5 Children" -CNN
In a case of mother-gone-mad that startled a nation, Andrea Yates, to her few friends and neighbors, was known as a mere recluse suffering from postpartum depression leading up to the birth of her fifth child. That all changed on June 20, 2001, when she snapped, drowning five of her children in their home's bathtub. She was convicted in 2002 of capital murder, carrying a sentence of life in prison with possible parole. As of July 2006, however, a Texas jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity.
"Buttafuoco Admits to Sex with Amy Fisher" -New York Times
Known as the "Long Island Lolita," Fisher became involved with Joey Buttafuoco in May of 1991. Shortly after the two began a sexual relationship (she, 16, while he, 35, was married with two children), his presence and influence in her life became all she cared for. In what he's since denied to this day, Buttafuoco would go on to help an obsessive Fisher plan the murder of his wife, culminating in Fisher putting a bullet in Mary Jo Buttafuoco's head, but failing to kill her. In the highly publicized trial that ensued, Fisher accepted a plea deal for 15 years in prison in exchange for a testimony against Joey, who faced and served out charges of statutory rape.
"Murder of a Little Beauty" -People Magazine
With a face that graced the covers of nearly every news and gossip rag during the winter of '96, it's hard to suggest the death of child beauty pageant queen JonBenét Ramsey had little effect outside the city of Boulder, Colorado. Found dead from a blow to the head and strangulation in the family's basement, coupled with a ransom note left on the staircase asking for $118,000 (conveniently or coincidentally, nearly the same amount Mr. Ramsey received as a bonus that year), as well as no obvious signs of forced entry into the house, the evidence was overwhelmingly stacked against parents John and Patsy, who managed to maintain their innocence throughout the investigation. The case reopened in 2010, but critics cite poor handling of the crime scene as obstructing what remains a mystery regarding the events of that Christmas day.
"F.B.I. Joins Probe in Slaughter of 8 Nurses" -Nashua Telegraph
Tattooed with "Born to Raise Hell" on his arm, Richard Speck made good on his mantra through a history of violence, theft, alcoholism, and spousal abuse, but made his infamy known to all when, on July 13, 1966, he walked into a dormitory armed with a knife. After leaving 8 student nurses dead in his wake, only one, Cora Amurao, was spared--hiding under a bed until 6 a.m. Speck was found guilty of murder and died of a heart attack in prison. As one of the most press-worthy crimes of the decade, the grim events were used most recently as the backdrop for an episode of <em>Mad Men</em>.
"Sharon Tate, Four Others Murdered" -Los Angeles Times
Perhaps the most terrifying figure in American crime to have never actually killed anyone himself, Charles Manson founded a "family" of wayward individuals who hailed him as a prophet. So strong was his manipulation, he ordered, on the night of Aug. 8, 1969, four of his followers to kill everyone at the residence of 10050 Cielo Drive--including Roman Polanski's wife, Sharon Tate, and her unborn child. Tate was stabbed 16 times, and her blood was used to write "pig" on the house's front door. The next night, Manson accompanied six of his family to the residence of supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife, only to help bind them before ordering their deaths. In 1971, Manson and three of his fellow defendants were found guilty of murder in the first-degree and several other crimes. At the time, it was the longest murder trial in American history, spanning nine and a half months, as well as the most expensive, estimating $1 million. Manson was denied parole for the 12th time in April 2012.
"Lindbergh Baby Kidnapped from Home of Parents on Farm Near Princeton; Taken from His Crib; Wide Search on" -The New York Times
Used as the basis for an Agatha Christie novel (<em>Murder on the Orient Express</em>) and dubbed "the biggest story since the Resurrection" by famed journalist H.L. Mencken, the kidnapping and murder of aviator Charles Lindbergh's infant son continues to fascinate theorists today. Charles Jr. was discovered missing from his second-floor bedroom on March 1, 1932, along with a note demanding a then-unimaginable $50,000, igniting a media frenzy like no other. The tabloid pandemonium prompted many tips and leads, but none as concrete as a package containing the boy's pajamas and another message demanding the ransom. After some misdirection from the presumed kidnapper, Lindbergh's child was soon after discovered in the woods along a road near the family residence. Notwithstanding the evidence stockpiled against the easily vilified illegal German immigrant Bruno Hauptmann (who was sentenced), speculation prevails as to the true identity of the caper responsible in this tragic tale of one of America's greatest heroes.
"Not Guilty as Sin" -NY Post
Still fresh in the minds of many and not to easily be forgotten, the trial of Casey Anthony turned Orlando, Florida into anything but the "happiest place on earth." Following a series of lies, misdirection and manipulation by then-22 year old Casey, Caylee's skeletal remains were found five months into the investigation, setting the stage for what could only be described as the most incessantly publicized and shocking trial in recent memory. The media had a field day that went on for months: Highlighting the young, pretty, party girl image used against her in court as the prosecution tore apart an aimless defense--or so it seemed. After resorting to throwing her family under the bus, incriminating people entirely made-up ("Zanny the Nanny"), and fabricating elaborate stories for the police, Casey was found not guilty of murder due to evidence deemed mostly circumstantial and not meeting the burden of "beyond reasonable doubt," inciting much debate regarding whether true justice was served.
"An American Tragedy" -TIME
Known and heralded as the "trial of the century," former football star and actor O.J. Simpson found himself in the middle of the nation's biggest, most-televised trial following the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, but not before fleeing an all-points bulletin in his Ford Bronco with 20 units in tow, interrupting game 5 of the NBA Finals. By enlisting a dream team including Johnnie Cochran, Robert Shapiro, and Robert Kardashian, the defense claimed Simpson was merely a victim of police fraud with regard to contaminated DNA evidence, while famously quipping "If it [the glove] doesn't fit, you must acquit." On October 3, 1995, an estimated 100 million people from around the world tuned in to watch the jury hand down a verdict of not guilty, consequently resulting in an estimated loss of $480 million in productivity and inciting an ongoing discussion of race in the judicial system that continues to this day.