Fernando Richter sentenced to 58 years, Sophia Richter gets 20 years in child abuse case

Published: Mar. 10, 2016 at 6:54 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 10, 2016 at 11:19 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A judge has sentenced the Tucson couple convicted of imprisoning and abusing three young girls for years.

Sophia Richter was sentenced to 20 years in prison with 835 days credit for time served. She also received three years probation. Fernando Richter was sentenced 58 years years in prison with 835 days credit for time served.

A Tucson jury in Pima County Superior Court found Sophia and Fernando Richter guilty on all counts of child abuse and kidnapping in December 2015. Fernando Richter was also found guilty on two counts of aggravated assault.

Thursday's sentencing came after a delay to determine additional mental health evaluation of Fernando Richter, who claimed at the original sentencing hearing on Feb. 29 that he didn't remember the trial and didn't know why he was in court.

The judge ruled on March 4 that Richter was competent to continue with the sentencing.

Richter also requested a new lawyer at the March 4 hearing, a request that Judge Paul Tang denied.

MOBILE USERS: The KOLD News 13 mugshots of the month are available HERE.

All three of the girls spoke at Thursday's hearing. Each of them expressed that they have forgiven their mother, but not Fernando, who is their stepfather.

A prosecutor said the Richters were a team, saying Fernando was more physically abusive, but the "mumble" exercise and food buckets were Sophia's doing.

Fernando Richter sat with his back to the girls as they spoke.

Fernando Richter's attorney said he understands where the girls are coming from, but said his client is not "evil" or "a monster." He said Fernando suffers from an incurable disease, mental illness.

He went on to say his client was bullied in school and manipulated by other people. He said he fell through the cracks and graduated high school only because of social promotion, not his own achievement.

Fernando Richter told the judge he had nothing to say and he doesn't understand.

Sophia Richter's attorney said he will appeal this case, saying there needs to be a better alternative to incarceration.

He said Sophia had no criminal history before this case and he said he wasn't allowed to present her defense as he wanted. He said Sophia was not allowed to say she was a victim herself.

The oldest daughter was the last of the victims to speak.

"The public doesn't even know who we are and they know the saddest things about us," she told the court.

She said the trial, in which both Fernando and Sophia were tried together, was unfair to Sophia Richter. She said it had no answers and only replayed their suffering. She said her mother didn't have a chance.

She said she didn't want her mother in prison a long time. She said Fernando already took away their mother and she doesn't want the court to do the same.

"I want her to hug me and kiss me," she said. "Haven't we been through enough?"

She suggested that her mother should get a second chance, saying that Sophia's first husband - who she alleged was abusive to Sophia - is getting a second chance by being allowed to raise her younger sisters.

One of the girls told the court her life was a living hell and nothing feels normal.

She went on to say that she has found happiness since moving in with her father and that she won't let that happiness be affected by her mother going to prison.

"I rescued myself from a situation that no child should go through," her sister told the judge.

She also said Fernando Richter changed her mother, Sophia. She said Sophia began wearing gloves when she interacted with her children and stopped reading books to them.

Sophia Richter sobbed as she sat next to the judge, listening to her daughter tell the judge, "She let this man torture us."

However, she said she wants Sophia in her life. She said she doesn't care what happens to Fernando.

She said Fernando took away years of her life, but she "turned out great," saying she gets As and Bs in school and plans to go to college. She wants to become a pediatrician and help children.

She ended her statement to the court by saying, "Me and my sisters are survivors."

Sophia Richter's mother also spoke, saying her daughter was in an abusive relationship and was afraid to speak up. She asked for leniency from the judge in sentencing Sophia.

Fernando Richter's stepfather told the court Fernando has spent plenty of time in various mental health centers, but never received consistent care.

The Richters still face similar kidnapping and child abuse charges in Pinal County, where they lived before moving to Tucson.

Pinal officials have said their trial will start sometime after the trial in Pima County ends. No word yet on an exact date.

In the Pinal County indictment, Fernando Richter also is accused of child molestation and sexual abuse.

Sophia Richter was to be moved to Pinal County immediately following her sentencing in Pima County.

Fernando Richter was to remain in the Pima County Jail to face a charge of assaulting a police officer in an incident related to the child abuse case.

One of the girls spoke exclusively with KOLD News 13's Barbara Grijalva after the judge's decision to delay sentencing. You can watch the exclusive video HERE.

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