Three sisters held captive by their parents in a Tucson home endured a hellish existence in dungeon-like conditions, investigators say. For up to two years, the girls—ages 12, 13, and 17, were imprisoned in locked bedrooms with elaborate alarm and video systems that let the girls' mother and stepfather keep them under constant surveillance, police say. The parents allegedly watched the girls as they were tortured with a "constant barrage" of loud music, or white noise if they showed signs of enjoying the music, CNN reports. The girls had to alert their parents if they wanted to go to the bathroom—and they had to use their closets if permission was denied. Police suspect video footage of the girls may have been streamed outside the home.
The couple, identified as Fernando and Sophia Richter, have been charged with kidnapping and child abuse and the stepfather has also been charged with sexual abuse with a person younger than 15. Neighbors say they never saw any sign of children at the house—until the two younger girls, filthy and malnourished, managed to flee to a neighbor's house. As he sat with them until police arrived, they "expressed a desire to live a normal life to go to school and see other relatives" and appeared fascinated by the books in his home, he tells the Arizona Republic. "They said they hadn’t gone to school for two years." Police found the elder sister imprisoned in another room in the house, and her journal detailing 18 months of captivity is playing a key role in the investigation. (Read more Tucson, Arizona stories.)