CRIME

Youngest sister in Arizona imprisonment case says stepfather beat her if she broke rules

The youngest of three sisters who authorities say were imprisoned in an Arizona home for months testified Thursday that she didn't think her stepfather was going to kill them on the day that she and another sister escaped but he had threatened her life in the past.

The girl, who was 12 when she and her sister fled the Tucson home, also said her stepfather Fernando Richter would beat her if he suspected she had broken any rules in the house.

The girl described having to urinate on herself because she wasn't allowed to use the bathroom and being awoken at 2 a.m. to do marching-type exercises. She said the girls were forced to listen to an old radio at all hours of the day that played static and sometimes music.

Much of her testimony echoed that of her older sister, who testified Wednesday that her mother, Sophia Richter, and Fernando Richter monitored them with video cameras, awoke them at night to march in place, and forced them to urinate and defecate in their bedroom closets.

The older girl wept on the witness stand as she recounted the abuse and bizarre rules her parents imposed on the three sisters before two escaped in 2013. Authorities say the oldest sister was kept in a separate room.

The older girl testified that she feared for her life after Fernando Richter broke her bedroom door in half and acted erratically while holding a knife. She opened a window that she thought would set off an alarm but didn't, then escaped with her younger sister.

Fernando and Sophia Richter have pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, child abuse and domestic violence charges.

The Associated Press does not generally name minors who authorities say are victims of crimes.

Prosecutors say the girls were not allowed to leave their rooms during the three to four months they lived in the Tucson home. Prior to that, they lived in Catalina, a nearby town in Pinal County, where prosecutors say they were also abused.

The Richters face a separate criminal case in Pinal County that includes charges of kidnapping and child abuse. They have also pleaded not guilty in that case.

Defense attorney Paul Skitzki, who represents Fernando Richter, said during opening statements in the Tucson case that the state doesn't have enough evidence to prove its allegations. He said his client's mother will testify to having seen the girls roam freely around the house and even leave for outings.

Now a sophomore in high school, the girl who testified Wednesday described how her parents' behavior became more and more erratic as time passed.

Asked why she hadn't escaped earlier, the girl said: "I never tried because I didn't wanna get punished. I didn't wanna get whooped. I didn't wanna get yelled at," she said.

The third sister was also expected to testify on Thursday.