Police in Arizona said Wednesday that three sisters allegedly held captive by their mother and stepfather at their home in Tucson were monitored at all times by a video system and bombarded by the constant sound of music or white noise.
Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said that the sound of the music was muffled by the house's sealed duct work and by towels pressed against doors, so that it could not be heard outside the girls' bedrooms.
On Wednesday, a judge set bail at $100,000 for the stepfather, 34-year-old Fernando Richter, and $75,000 for the mother, 32-year-old Sophia Richter, at their initial court appearances Wednesday. They face multiple counts of kidnapping and child abuse, and 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 Richters had lawyers.
Meanwhile, MyFoxPhoenix.com reported Wednesday that the girls, aged 17, 13, and 12, were held at another home in Catalina, Ariz. between March 2011 and August 2013. As in Tucson, neighbors in Catalina said that they never saw any sign of children while the family lived there. The station also reported that certain patches on the walls of the house may have been camera locations and have been repainted since the family moved out.
Police on Wednesday were also poring over a journal they say the 17-year-old kept while she and her two younger sisters were imprisoned.
Villasenor 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 the girl kept inside a satchel.
Investigators say the two younger girls escaped through the window of the bedroom they shared and alerted a neighbor Tuesday after Fernando Richter 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 a nearby room. The three girls were malnourished and dirty, police said, 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. Villasenor said Sophia Richter claims her children were home-schooled.
The girls' accounts of being held in captivity were consistent, Villasenor said. They are now in the custody of a state child welfare agency.
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 AP. "And he hasn't done nothing she said. She has just been lying."
Sophia Richter agreed to speak with investigators but Villasenor declined to provide details of what she said. Fernando Richter declined to speak with investigators, the police chief said.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.