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Skeletal remains found after fire, child-abuse investigation at Phoenix home


JAMIE LANDERS   | Arizona Republic

The parents of three children were arrested after human skeletal remains were found following a fire in a west Phoenix home where officials had been investigating alleged child abuse, police reported Wednesday morning.

The parents, Rafael Loera, 56, and Maribel Loera, 50, were booked into Fourth Avenue Jail, according to Phoenix police. Rafael Loera is suspected of concealing human body parts, endangerment, child abuse and arson. Maribel Loera is suspected of child abuse.

Homicide investigators were at the house near 59th Avenue and Camelback Road.

Skeletal remains were found in the home on Tuesday as firefighters removed drywall from the attic following the fire, according to Capt. Rob McDade, a Phoenix Fire Department spokesman.

Police did not say whether the remains belonged to a child or an adult.

Police went to the home for a welfare check last week when an 11-year-old girl called and informed them she was home alone. Officers discovered evidence of child abuse, and she was taken into custody by the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

The girl was the only child in the home at the time.

On Tuesday, DCS went back to the home and removed two other children, ages 4 and 9, from the residence.

"We removed the first child from a home near 59th Avenue and Camelback on January 20, 2020 after Phoenix Police Department discovered her alone on a welfare check," DCS confirmed in a statement released Wednesday.

"After removal of the first child, DCS learned of additional children that were not present in the home on January 20th" and removed them Tuesday after getting court authorization, the statement said.

About an hour later, the Phoenix Fire Department was sent to the house for reports of smoke. Firefighters found the fire had spread throughout the home and extended to the attic, according to McDade.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the attic fire before the home was destroyed.

On Wednesday, officers were seen outside the home photographing and bagging stuffed animals and toys as evidence. Officers also had a police dog at the location.

A van in the driveway was covered in red caution tape.

DCS confirmed the three children are now in the department's custody, and that DCS is investigating the case jointly with Phoenix police. 

No other details were immediately available because the court granted the state's motion to temporarily seal the probable cause statement that police submitted to the court, according to the Maricopa County Superior Court.

Shauneice Watson, a 19-year-old neighbor, said she has never seen children at the home nor had she ever seen the van in the driveway move positions or leave.

"I've walked down this street every day with my dog for two years and have never seen anyone," Watson said. "I haven't even seen their door open until today. Something is not right. We would have seen children if there were three or four of them. There's just no way."

Arizona Humane Society representatives removed two cats and at least one dog from the home. It was not known how many animals were in the house.

Reporter Connor Van Ligten contributed to this story. 

2020 Jan 29