TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - It has been nearly three weeks since the trial began for a couple accused of imprisoning and abusing three young sisters in southern Arizona, and now members of the jury will decide the couple's fate.
The jury in the trial of Sophia and Fernando Richter began deliberating Wednesday afternoon and continued all day Thursday.
The trial was delayed around 11 a.m. Thursday when one of the jurors was excused. An alternate was brought in and deliberations resumed around 1 p.m. and ended at 3:30 p.m. The trial will restart around 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Sophia Richter, mother of the three girls, is facing six counts: three for kidnapping and three for child abuse. Fernando Richter, stepfather to the girls, is facing the same charges plus an additional two for aggravated assault.
Deliberations were expected to take a while as each charge includes lesser charges. That means the Richters could be found guilty of less serious charges.
• KIDNAPPING: The jury can find either or both Richters guilty of the lesser included charge of false imprisonment.
• CHILD ABUSE: The jury can find either or both Richters guilty of reckless child abuse or negligent child abuse.
• AGGRAVATED ASSAULT: Only Fernando Richter is facing these charges. He has two counts against him. The jury could find him guilty of that or simple assault or disorderly conduct. Disorderly conduct is a Class 6 felony because a weapon (knife) was allegedly used.
If found guilty on any of the charges, sentencing would happen in 30 days.
The Richter's still face charges in Pinal County because Catalina, where the Richter's lived for most of two years the girls were allegedly in captivity, is in Pinal County.
One day of deliberations for every week of a trial is considered a typical estimate. This case has almost reached three calendar weeks, but only nine days of actual work in the courtroom.
Authorities claim the girls were monitored by video surveillance 24 hours per day, fed the same "disgusting food" day after day, forced to drink bath water out of moldy plastic jugs, beat with belts and spoons and sometimes had to use their closets as a bathroom. Authorities also said the Richters blasted loud music through the home.
The allegations came to light November 2013 when two of the girls managed to escape the family's Tucson home. The girls said they escaped through a window when Fernando Richter tried to break down their bedroom door with a knife in his hand.
Investigators said the Richters, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, moved to Tucson in August 2013 after living in Pinal County for several years.
• DAY 3: Middle sister takes witness stand
• DAY 5: Girls' aunt, grandmother testify