Tucson Police via EPA
Fernando Richter, 34, and Sophia Richter, 32, were each charged with three counts of kidnapping, child abuse and physical abuse. Fernando Richter is also charged with one count of sexual abuse of a minor.
By Alexander Smith, NBC News contributor
Three sisters who escaped after allegedly being held captive for two years by their mother and stepfather in Arizona were kept in filthy prison-like conditions and incarcerated using a complex system of locks and alarms, police said Wednesday.
The girls, aged 12, 13, and 17, said they were forced to listen to loud music 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which then turned to static if they showed any signs of enjoyment, according to police in Tucson.
The girls were allegedly monitored by surveillance cameras pointing at their beds, and they had to request to go to the bathroom. Police said if their mother and stepfather refused their requests to use the toilet, the girls were forced to use the closet.
Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villasenor said that air ducts were sealed off, vents were covered, and towels were kept under the doors, as if to sound-proof the rooms. Any attempt to escape would set off a shrill alarm.
"What the kids are telling us is that it was 24/7: Either loud music or…if they showed appreciation or enjoyment of the music it was turned over to static, and there would be loud static directed toward the beds," Villasenor told a press conference Wednesday. "Their movements were controlled -- when, where and how they went to the bathroom, when they were fed."
They were fed a goulash-like meal once a day and responsible for cleaning their own plates within the rooms, Villasenor added.
"[The accused couple] did things that made these girls feel isolated and made real sure they did not feel in control," he said.
The three sisters were discovered when the two youngest managed to escape the house in Tucson via a window early Tuesday. They ran to a neighbor and told them their stepfather kicked in their door and tried to attack them with a knife, according to police.
Villasenor told the press conference that the neighbors did not even recognize the sisters, and the girls did not know their own address.
When officers came to the girls' house they found the older sister locked in a separate room. All three were malnourished and had not washed properly for months, police said.
Fernando Richter, 34, and Sophia Richter, 32, were each charged with three counts of kidnapping, child abuse and physical abuse.
Fernando Richter is also charged with one count of sexual abuse of a minor, said Bernard Rivera, a Tucson City Court public safety support specialist.
An Arizona couple stands accused of holding, and abusing two young girls in their home. KVOA's Rebecca Taylor reports.
In a statement to police, Sophia Richter denied that she or her husband abused the girls. She said they only disciplined them by taking away the television or music, NBC station KVOA reported.
The girls are being held in Child Protective Services, Pima County Lt. Chris Wildblood said.
Fernando Richter is on probation after pleading guilty to a DUI and possession of drugs in 2012, according to court documents.
He was arrested several times between 2002 and 2012 for disorderly conduct, assault, harassment and criminal damage, but charges were dismissed or allowed to expire each time, court documents revealed.
Fernando and Sophia Richter were being held in Pima County jail, with bond set at $100,000 and $75,000 respectively.
This story was originally published on Thu Nov 28, 2013 9:17 AM EST