Tucson mom to serve 10 years of probation for child abuse

A Tucson woman whose 20-year prison sentence was overturned last summer will now serve 10 years of probation for crimes that spanned two Arizona counties. 

Sophia Richter, 38, pleaded guilty in April to several counts of child abuse and kidnapping. During Monday’s sentencing, she was ordered by Pima County Superior Court Judge Javier Chon-Lopez to serve sentences for each count at the same time. This includes 10 years for the child abuse counts and seven years for kidnapping counts, all considered crimes of domestic violence.

If she violates her probation, Richter faces between three and 12 years in prison on the kidnapping counts and between one and nearly four years on the child abuse counts. She only faces the child abuse consequences if she violates probation during the last three years of her probationary term.

The children were victimized while the family was living in both Pinal and Pima counties, and Richter could have received anywhere from probation to another 20-year prison term at her sentencing. 

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 stepfather 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’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.

Richter, in entering the plea earlier this year, 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.

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