KEY POINTS

  • The remains were found after authorities responded to calls of smoke coming from the house
  • The fire reportedly started shortly after the Arizona Department of Child Safety removed two children from the same home
  • One of the homeowners reportedly told investigators the remains belonged to the 11-year-old girl he and his wife adopted that died in 2017

Prosecutors in Phoenix charged a couple with child abuse after an 11-year-old child's skeletal remains were found inside their home.  

The remains were found after the Phoenix Fire Department responded to calls over smoke at the home of Rafael Loera, 56, and Maribel Loera, 50, on Jan. 28. Rafael Loera reportedly told police the remains belonged to their adopted daughter who died in July 2017, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said in a criminal complaint.

“Rafael disclosed in July 2017, while the child was on summer break, she became ill,” the complaint said. “Rafael waited several days to seek medical treatment before attempting to take her to Phoenix Children's Hospital. Rafael detailed how she died [en] route to the hospital. The child had been throwing up in the days leading up to her death and had what he described as convulsions before passing away.”

Rafael Loera is facing charges of arson, concealing a body and child abuse. Maribel Loera is being charged with concealing a body and child abuse.

It’s the latest in what has been a tumultuous month for both Phoenix authorities and the Loeras.

Phoenix police had been investigating the couple since social workers removed an 11-year-old girl from the home. She reportedly had multiple scars and burns on her body, which were allegedly caused by Maribel Loera. The social workers described the home as being in “disarray,” from generally poor upkeep to what was described as “human feces” on the floor.

Investigators said the girl told them she had an older sister that had disappeared two years earlier, which police suspect to be the newly discovered remains.

The Arizona Department of Child Safety removed two more children, a 4-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy, from the residence on Jan. 28. The boy also had visible injuries similar to the 11-year-old girl. Authorities were called back to the couple’s home after neighbors reported seeing smoke coming from it.

Rafael Loera allegedly told police a fire in the fireplace simply got out of hand put was put out. However, smoke was still reportedly coming out of the house which forced firefighters to investigate.

They reportedly found Maribel Loera with a garden hose spraying the floor in one corner of the living room. Rafael Loera then told police he reportedly siphoned gas from his car into an anti-freeze container and started the fire “because he didn’t want to live anymore.”

After they were arrested, Rafael Loera reportedly told investigators about the alleged abuse the children suffered at Maribel’s hands.

“He admitted that he never reported this to police fearing Maribel would hurt him,” the criminal complaint said. He also said the alleged abuse included beating the children with a broom or knotted power cords.