- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - An Arizona judge on Monday delayed the sentencing of a Tucson couple convicted of abusing and imprisoning their three daughters after one of the defendants said he didn’t understand the proceedings and couldn’t remember being convicted.

Fernando and Sophia Richter were convicted of child abuse and kidnapping charges in December after a weeks-long trial in which the three girls testified about the abuse and bizarre rules imposed by their mother and stepfather.

Among other things, the girls said they were locked in their rooms and denied access to a bathroom.

Fernando Richter’s attorney said in court Monday that his client was having mental health issues and didn’t understand what was going on.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Paul Tang ordered a mental health evaluation for him and rescheduled sentencing for March 10.

The girls were 12, 13 and 17 when the two youngest escaped from their room and asked a neighbor for help in November 2013.

They testified that they were forced to wake up at 2 a.m. every day to march in place, sometimes for so long that their legs ached. They told jurors they were fed rancid food and forced to overeat or face punishment.

Police officers testified that the house smelled so bad of urine and feces they had to open all the windows to conduct their investigation.

Authorities say the abuse began in a house in Pinal County, where the family lived before moving to Tucson and where the Richters face a separate criminal trial.

They pleaded not guilty in both cases.

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


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