A Phoenix couple faces murder charges related to the death of a missing child whose body was found hidden in their home in 2020, police said last week.
Prosecutors have charged the duo — Maribel Loera, 51, and Rafael Loera, 57 — with “1st degree Murder, several counts of child abuse, concealment of a dead body, and arson of an occupied structure,” the Phoenix Police Department announced April 2.
The charges are related to the homicide of the couple’s 13-year-old adopted daughter, Ana Loera, who was not seen alive since 2016. Firefighters found Ana’s skeletal remains stashed in the attic on Jan. 28, 2020, after an alleged attempt by Rafael Loera to set the house aflame, according to a City of Phoenix news release and reporting from KPNX-TV.
The charged husband and wife had already been in custody on child abuse charges since January 2020.
The investigation into the case stretches back to Jan. 20, 2020, when an 11-year-old girl called the police and said she had been left neglected at a house for two days, hungry.
According to the Arizona Department of Child Safety, Maribel and Rafael Loera were her foster parents and Ana was her foster sibling.
The girl, whose body showed signs of being whipped by a rope-like object, told officers that Maribel Loera possessed a “bad temper,” and would beat her with several things, including a knotted extension cord, The Republic reported.
She further told them that she had an older sibling who went missing three years earlier and that her parents gave conflicting answers when discussing that sibling’s disappearance, according to the outlet.
Rafael Loera would tell her that her sibling was taken to Mexico after being adopted, while Maribel Loera would say she had gone to Colombia after being adopted, the report said.
This sibling was none other than Ana.
According to the DCS, the 11-year-old girl was then removed from the house by the agency.
A worker sent by the DCS approached Rafael Loera at the house in Phoenix on Jan. 28 and took custody of two other children, a 9-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, from him.
The DCS discovered that the 11-year-old girl, rescued on Jan. 20, and the 9-year-old boy had injuries “too numerous to count” all over them, The Republic reported.
After the DCS took custody of the 4-year-old and the 9-year-old on Jan. 28, Rafael Loera allegedly set the house on fire, KPNX reported.
When firefighters responded to the fire, they found Ana’s body “hidden within drywall,” according to The Republic. Both Rafael and Maribel Loera were apprehended.
“During the investigation, the remains were positively identified as 13-year-old Ana Loera,” the Phoenix Police Department said. “The exact date of death is unknown however according to witnesses she was last seen alive in 2016. The Office of the Medical Examiner ruled her death as a homicide.”
According to a DCS summary report on Ana’s case, the Maricopa County Superior Court learned on Aug. 3, 2020, that Rafael Loera admitted to knowing his wife Maribel was abusing Ana.
The court also learned that day that Ana died when Rafael Loera was taking her to a hospital. After discovering that she died, he took the body home and hid it in the attic, according to the report.
In December, the court substantiated the child abuse allegations against Maribel Loera. On Mar. 31, 2021, Rafael and Maribel Loera were hit with first-degree murder charges.
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