Human remains found in Phoenix home were allegedly there since 2017
PHOENIX — The human skeletal remains found in a Phoenix home that was the site of an ongoing child abuse investigation had allegedly been there for more than two years, according to court documents.
Rafael Loera, 56, told detectives that he and his wife, 50-year-old Maribel Loera, kept the body of an 11-year-old adopted female in the attic of their home since July 2017 before remains were found Tuesday, court documents said.
The child, who hadn’t been seen or heard since 2017, allegedly came down with an illness and was sick for several days before she died as Rafael Loera was taking her to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, according to court documents.
Rafael Loera then returned home with the child and didn’t contact authorities over fear of losing their other children, according to court documents.
The child was wrapped in a sheet and placed in the attic, according to court documents.
Rafael Loera moved the child’s bones from the attic and placed them in the backyard on Tuesday before setting the house on fire, court documents say.
The Phoenix Fire Department responded to the Loeras’ home near 59th Avenue and Camelback Road on Tuesday after they received a report of smoke.
Firefighters entered the home and found the remains, Sgt. Maggie Cox said.
Rafael Loera was arrested on charges of child abuse, arson, endangerment and concealment of human body parts, according to the city.
Maribel Loera was also arrested and charged with child abuse.
Officers had first responded to the home on Jan. 20 after an 11-year-old girl called to say she was home alone.
The officers found evidence of child abuse and took the girl, the only child at the residence that day, into custody, Cox said.
Darren DaRonco, a spokesman for the Department of Child Safety, said the agency learned that more children lived in the home after removing the girl. The department obtained a court order to remove remove a 4-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy and went there on Tuesday.
During his initial court appearance, prosecutor Sarah Corcoran said Rafael Loera confessed to setting the fire in an effort to end his life and burn the house down.
Loera was also asked by investigators last month about the 11-year-old adopted girl in the couple’s care. Loera said he falsely told authorities that the girl moved to Mexico before admitting that she was dead.
“He is alleged to have done nothing to prevent the abuse of the victims although he allegedly admitted that he knew that it was happening and he allegedly admitted that he left the victims in the care of the co-suspect knowing that the abuse was happening,” Corcoran said, adding that he confessed to hiding the corpse.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office also said Maribel Loera allegedly had about $4,800 cash in her purse and passports when the couple was arrested.
Bail was set at $200,000 cash for Maribel Loera. Prosecutors had requested $350,000.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.