An Arizona couple was charged last week with the murder of their 13-year-old adopted daughter, whose skeletal remains turned up in an attic after their house was set ablaze last year.
On Friday, officials announced that Rafael Loera and Maribel Loera have been charged with the murder of their adopted daughter, Ana Loera, who hadn’t been seen since 2016. The girl's remains were discovered after authorities extinguished a fire at the couple’s Phoenix home in January 2020.
Ana Loera’s death has been ruled a homicide by the county medical examiner. Investigators didn’t specify when the 13-year-old may have died, but she was last seen alive roughly five years ago. The teen was also known as Charisma Marquez, KIRO-TV reported.
“The exact date of death is unknown, however, according to witnesses, she was last seen alive in 2016,” Phoenix Police Department said in a statement.
Photo: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
On Jan. 20, 2020, Phoenix police officers conducted a welfare check at the couple’s residence after an 11-year-old called and reported she was hungry and had been left alone by her parents. The child was ultimately removed from the home after showing signs of “neglect” and “abuse.”
The 11-year-old allegedly showed signs of several “abrasions, scars, healed burn scars, injuries to her back, buttocks, abdomen and chin,” court documents stated, AZFamily.com reported.
She told detectives that Maribel Loera beat her with “knotted extension cords," and banged “her head into walls." Her injuries matched the abuse allegations. The 11-year-old also claimed she had an older sister who had gone missing two years prior.
Eight days later, the Arizona Department of Child Safety returned to the Loera home, where they removed two more children — a 4-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy — who were placed into state custody. The boy’s injuries were described as “too numerous to count,” according to court filings obtained by The Arizona Republic. “Loop marks” were found on the little boy’s legs, the court documents also allege.
Photo: Phoenix Police Department
Minutes after authorities left, Rafael Loera doused his home’s floor with gasoline and lit the property on fire, police said. Authorities suspect the 57-year-old lit the fire in an unsuccessful effort to kill himself. Afterward, firefighters uncovered human bones while inspecting the home’s ceiling.
Rafael Loera later confessed that the skeletal remains belonged to Ana Loera. He claimed the teenager had become extremely sick, but the family neglected to seek medical care and that that she died while they drove her to the hospital. The couple wrapped her body in a sheet and left it in the home’s attic. She may have died more than two years before her body was found, according to KIRO-TV.
Rafael Loera, who also admitted he was aware of the child abuse in the couple’s household, largely cast blame on his wife, Maribel.
“[He] acknowledged his wife was abusing [Ana] during the time of her death, she was the primary caregiver while he was at work and a forensic autopsy of the bones would ‘probably’ show injuries,” court documents show.
The couple has been charged with first-degree murder, several counts of child abuse, concealment of a dead body, and arson of an occupied structure, according to online records.
"The department was not visiting this family, as there were no foster children living in the home at the time of the incident, nor were there any open investigations prior to January 20, 2020," the Department of Child Safety said in a statement following the Loeras’ arrest last year, AZFamily.come reported.
Rafael and Maribel Loera’s next scheduled court date is April 13, online jail records show.