Skeletal remains in Phoenix attic were of adopted girl who died 2 years ago, father says

The remains were discovered by firefighters responding to a blaze that authorities say the father set after three children, two of whom were alleged to have been abused, were removed from the home.
Image: Phoenix remains
Police investigators sift through evidence at a home where skeletal remains were found in Phoenix on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. Ross D. Franklin / AP

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By David K. Li

A man under arrest in Arizona told police that human remains found inside his burning home are of an adopted girl who died 2½ years ago, court documents revealed Monday.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office said in a criminal complaint against Rafael Loera, 56, and Maribel Loera, 50, that the man allegedly told Phoenix police the girl died while the family was taking her to a hospital.

"Rafael disclosed in July 2017, while the child was on summer break, she became ill," according to the complaint.

"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."

The Loeras came to the attention of authorities last month after social workers took an 11-year-old girl from the residence, which "appeared in disarray as it was dirty with what appeared to be human feces throughout the residence on the floors," according to the criminal complaint.

A week later, on Jan. 28, the Arizona Department of Child Safety removed two other children, 9 and 4 years old, and about an hour later, neighbors reported flames at the home.

Phoenix firefighters came into the family's home and found human remains in the attic.

Rafael Loera was alleged to have doused the inside of the couple's home with gasoline he had siphoned from his Dodge Caravan.

"Rafael explained he did not want to live anymore," the complaint said.

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Rafael Loera told police that Maribel Loera had regularly beaten the children with broomsticks and knotted extension cords.

"He admitted that he never reported this to police fearing Maribel would hurt him," according to the complaint.

The 11-year-old girl and the 9-year-old boy had multiple injuries.

The girl had "numerous abrasions" and scars, including from healed burns, on her left shoulder, prosecutors said in the complaint. The boy had "cuts and abrasions on face, loop marks on legs, injuries too numerous to count," according to the complaint.

Rafael Loera has been charged with arson, concealing a body and two counts child abuse. Maribel Loera has been charged with concealing a body and two counts of child abuse.

A court-appointed attorney for the suspects did not immediately return calls seeking comment.