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Autopsy: Girl whose remains were found in a Phoenix home died from abuse and neglect


PERRY VANDELL   | Arizona Republic

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner recently released the autopsy for a girl whose remains were found in her adoptive parents' west Phoenix home last year and found the cause of death to be a combination of abuse and neglect.

Phoenix police arrested Rafael Loera, 56, and Maribel Loera, 50, after firefighters noticed human remains hidden within drywall while they extinguished a fire at their west Phoenix home on Jan. 28, 2020.

During a police interview, Rafael told investigators that the bones belonged to an 11-year-old girl the couple had adopted. Rafael said the girl became ill in July 2017 and that he waited days before attempting to take her to Phoenix Children's Hospital, documents say.

Rafael said the girl, who was renamed to Ana Loera after adoption, was vomiting and convulsing before she died on the way to the hospital, court documents say. Fearing they would lose custody of their three other children, the couple decided to wrap her body in a sheet and hide it in the attic where it remained for two years, Rafael told police.

Court documents say Rafael told police he knew Maribel physically abused Ana before she died, but never contacted police to help her. Instead, he left her with his wife while he worked two jobs.

The autopsy, which identifies the girl as "Anna Loera," cites police documents that state one of the other children told police their parents hit her with knotted extension cords and slammed her head-first into walls. That child also told police their parents told her Ana had been adopted and sent to either Colombia or Mexico.

Dental comparison confirmed the remains belonged to Ana, according to the autopsy report. 

The documents also say Rafael admitted to investigators that Ana's skeletal remains would likely show signs of abuse.

The autopsy, which involved examining a "near-complete human skeleton," found possible fractures on the left part of her jaw, with other fractures that were either healed or healing across the rest of her body — including her clavicle, vertebrae, ribs, pelvis and both hands. Some damage, such as a fracture to the right temple, may have been caused due to heat from the fire.

The bones' condition indicated Ana had been dead for at least a year and as long as five years.

Dr. Amber Wang, who led the autopsy, wrote in the report that she concluded Ana's death was a homicide.

"Based on the postmortem examination findings and all other investigative information received to date and as available to me, it is my opinion that the decedent died of child abuse, including acute and chronic skeletal injuries and neglect," Wang wrote.

Prosecutors initially charged both parents with child abuse and concealing a dead body. Rafael received an additional arson of an occupied structure charge. Prosecutors then charged both parents with first-degree murder more than a year later, causing the trial to be delayed to Dec. 2.

Their next scheduled court appearance is May 25 in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Priscilla Marquez has said for more than a year that she is the girl's biological mother and that Ana's birth name was Charisma Marquez. She told The Arizona Republic on Monday that she had not yet been able to bring herself to read the report. 

2021 Apr 27