Tucson mother pleads guilty, faces probation or prison for imprisoning daughters

A Tucson woman whose 20-year prison sentence was overturned last summer pleaded guilty Monday to several counts of child abuse and kidnapping in the same case. 

Sophia Richter, 37, could now receive probation, or another 20-year prison term, at her sentencing scheduled for June 10 before Pima County Superior Court Judge Javier Chon-Lopez. 

Richter’s guilty verdict from 2015 was overturned in August after the Arizona Supreme Court found she was denied the right to claim she acted “under duress” in the abuse of her three daughters. 

Police arrested Richter and her husband, Fernando, in 2013 after two of the girls, then 12 and 13, escaped from a bedroom window and ran to a neighbor’s house to say they were being held captive. They also said their step-father was threatening them with a knife, police reported.

When law enforcement officers showed up at the house, they found an older sister, then 17, locked in a separate bedroom. The older girl said they were fed rancid food and made to drink moldy water from plastic jugs.

Richter, in entering the plea, admitted her daughters were abused but said she was so afraid of her husband that she had no choice but to allow it. In return for her plea, the state dropped dangerous crimes against children charges for several of the counts.

Fernando Richter is serving 58 years in prison after losing his appeal on convictions for kidnapping, child abuse and aggravated assault.

Chon-Lopez reduced Sophia Richter’s bond from $75,000 to $5,000 in October after her three daughters asked for leniency so their mother could get out of jail. 

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