Three sisters who escaped after being held captive in
Arizonafor up to two years by their mother and stepfather were confined in filthy conditions in a house with elaborate security and crudely sound-proofed rooms, police said.
Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said at a news conference on Wednesday that the house in which the malnourished girls were held in filthy conditions had been elaborately alarmed and outfitted with round-the-clock video security.
“Their movements were controlled – when, where and how they went to the bathroom, when they were fed,” and they had not seen each other for much of that time, he said.
Loud music was continuously played in the girls’ bedrooms and towels had been stuffed into ducts and under the doors in an apparent attempt to muffle sound, Villasenor told reporters.
The girls’ ordeal came to light early on Tuesday when the two younger sisters, ages 12 and 13, managed to run to a neighbour’s house and told them their stepfather had kicked in their bedroom door and tried to attack them with a knife, according to police.
In a subsequent search of the house, police said they discovered a 17-year-old girl locked in another bedroom, and arrested the mother and stepfather.
Stepfather Fernando Richter, 34, and mother, Sophia Richter, 32, were charged with emotional and physical child abuse and kidnapping. The stepfather is also charged with one count of sexual abuse of a child under 15.
More charges are expected, said Villasenor.
Since regaining their freedom, the girls have been evaluated by doctors and are currently under the care and supervision of Child Protective Services, Villasenor said.
Officers are also looking over a journal that was kept by the 17-year-old girl, covering more than 18 months of captivity and abuse, which the police chief declined to describe in detail.
The teenager kept the journal in a satchel with a photo of singer Enrique Iglesias throughout her ordeal. She was overjoyed when the photo was returned on Wednesday, after police examined the contents of her bag, Villasenor said.
Police had been called to the family home twice before the call at 4 a.m. on Tuesday alerted them to the girls’ plight. On one occasion, Fernando Richter had reported being chased by teenagers, and on another he said he had been robbed.
Sophia Richter told police her daughters were home schooled. The couple has been together for about 10 years, but married for only three or four years, and there is evidence that the girls were held against their will in at least one of the family’s former homes, Villasenor said.
(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Gunna Dickson)
This post originally appeared at Reuters. Copyright 2013.
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