Phoenix police have identified a couple arrested after authorities discovered human remains while responding to fire at their home
PHOENIX — Police in Phoenix on Wednesday identified a couple accused of intentionally setting their house ablaze after their children were taken by the state, leading firefighters to find unidentified skeletal remains.
Police say 56-year-old Rafael Loera and 50-year-old Maribel Loera abused the children and set the fire on Tuesday intentionally. They have been charged with arson, child abuse and concealment of a dead body.
Child welfare authorities first began investigating on Jan. 20, when an 11-year-old girl called police to report that she was home alone and scared. The girl was removed from the home, but no other children were there at the time, police spokeswoman Sgt. Maggie Cox said.
Darren DaRonco, a spokesman for the Department of Child Safety, said the agency learned that more children lived in the home after removing the girl. The department got court authorization to remove the two other kids and did so on Tuesday, DaRonco said.
The child abuse investigation is ongoing, he said.
On Tuesday, child safety investigators returned to the house to remove a 9-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl. An hour later, someone reported seeing smoke coming from the house.
Firefighters responded and found skeletal remains in the house, Cox said. Authorities haven’t determined whether they belong to a child or adult.
“As you can imagine, this a very complex investigation,” Cox said.
The single-family house is in a small cul-de-sac in the city’s west side. On Wednesday, police and fire investigators had cordoned off the entire street. The house didn’t have visible external damage from the fire.