By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A Tucson couple were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of holding their daughters captive in the family's home in filthy conditions for up to two years, with the girls complaining they had not been allowed to bathe for months, police said.
Police responded to the house on Tuesday after the two youngest girls, ages 12 and 13, ran to a neighbor's house and said their stepfather had kicked in their bedroom door and tried to attack them with a knife, Tucson police Captain Michael Gillooly told reporters.
"During the course of the investigation, it was alleged by the girls that they had been imprisoned in their bedrooms for at least the last several months and possibly up to two years," the Tucson Police Department said in a statement.
Investigators were still seeking to determine exactly how long the girls were held captive, said Tucson police spokesman Sergeant Chris Widmer.
Police said they discovered a 17-year-old girl locked in a different bedroom at the house and that she was believed to have been imprisoned in the room for the same amount of time as the other two girls, Widmer said.
"All three juveniles were extremely dirty ... and malnourished and stated that they had not bathed in the last four to six months," Gillooly told reporters.
The girls were kept in filthy conditions and separated from each other, and the younger girls told a patrol officer they had not seen the 17-year-old girl in about two years, he said. The girls reported being fed only once daily, police said.
The mother and stepfather, Sophia and Fernando Richter, were arrested and booked into Pima County jail on charges of emotional and physical abuse and three counts of kidnapping tied to holding the girls in their bedrooms, Widmer said. Fernando Richter, 34, was also charged with sex abuse.
The girls, whose names were not released, were taken into protective custody, police said. It was not clear if Fernando and Sophia Richter had obtained an attorney.
(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)