Docs: Couple hid remains of 11-year-old adopted daughter in the attic since 2017
In the months after hiding the girl’s body in the attic, they adopted another little girl, according to court documents.
PHOENIX – The skeleton remains a firefighter who was found in a house after a smoke call last week belonged to a child who died more than two years ago, court documents show.
The Phoenix Police Department said 56-year-old Rafael Loera and 50-year-old Maribel Loera were arrested after the remains were found in the house near 59th Avenue and Camelback Road.
According to court records, Rafael had an adopted 11-year-old girl who had not been seen or heard from since 2017.
Rafael told detectives she had moved to Mexico and didn’t want contact but wouldn’t tell where she was or who she was with.
When faced with the loopholes in his story, Rafael admitted that the child fell ill in July 2017 when it was on summer recess, court documents show.
Rafael waited a few days before attempting to take her to the hospital and she died on the way, he told police.
She had vomited and, according to the records, had what he called convulsions before she died.
Rafael said he wrapped the child in a sheet and put it in the attic without reporting her death for fear that the other children would be taken away, court records say.
Rafael and Maribel adopted another girl in the months following the 11-year-old’s death.
Meanwhile, the girl’s body remained in the attic for more than two years until the fire led to its discovery on January 28.
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Rafael originally told firefighters that he lit a fire in the fireplace that got out of control. He told them it was done and deleted, according to court documents.
Firefighters entered the house to make sure the fire was properly put out as they could still see smoke coming from the attic.
They noticed that the fire that was being put out did not come from the fireplace, but in the corner of the living room on the floor, as evidenced by court documents.
The crews pulled drywall from the ceiling to make sure there was no active embers and found human bones on the attic insulation.
A homicide investigation followed, during which Rafael admitted he had pulled gas from his car, poured it on the living room floor, and set it on fire when Maribel ran into the room screaming, court documents show.
He reportedly started the fire because he felt hopeless and no longer wanted to live.
Rafael said he removed the child’s bones from the attic and put them in the back yard before setting the house on fire.
Earlier that day, before Rafael reportedly started the fire, Department of Child Safety investigators reacted to the house and removed a 4-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy for signs of abuse.
An 11-year-old girl was removed from the house last week when she called the police and said she had been home alone for two days and was hungry.
The girl had visible injuries that had to do with a rope-like object, as the police found in court documents.
The girl said Maribel was in a bad mood and would hit her with various objects while banging her head against walls, court documents show.
According to these documents, Rafael saw this. He told police Maribel would hit the 11-year-old and the 9-year-old with a power cord and a broomstick.
He told detectives he feared Maribel would harm him if he reported the abuse to the police, adding that Maribel once attacked him with a broomstick while trying to defend the children.
The 11-year-old in DCS custody also told police she had an older sister who disappeared about two years ago. The sister she was talking about is said to be the girl who was found in the attic.
According to the records, Maribel had told the girl that her sister was adopted and sent to Colombia, while Rafael told her that her sister was adopted and sent to Mexico.
Rafael is charged with child molestation that hides human body parts and arson. Maribel is also charged with child abuse.
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