Ariz. Parents Charged with Murder After Fire Reveals Remains of Missing Girl, 13, in Attic
The adoptive parents of an 13-year-old girl last seen alive in 2016 whose body was found in the attic of her Arizona home last year have been charged with murder.
On Friday, the Phoenix Police Department announced that 51-year-old Maribel Loera and 57-year-old Rafael Loera had been charged with first degree murder, several counts of child abuse, concealment of a dead body and arson of an occupied structure in the death of their daughter, Ana Loera.
Both Maribel and Rafael have been in custody on child abuse charges since police's investigation began on Jan. 20, 2020, when officers conducted a welfare check on an 11-year-old girl.
According to the Arizona Republic, the 11-year-old girl called police saying she was left home alone. She said she was hungry after being left by her family, who had been out of town for two days. She also reportedly said she had an older sister who vanished in 2017.
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The 11-year-old girl was one of the couple's adopted children. Later that same night, she was removed by the Department of Child Safety, according to police. Eight days later, on Jan. 28, 2020, DCS returned to the family's home to remove two more children, a 4-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl, from the couple's custody.
Both the 11-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy showed signs of alleged abuse —DCS wrote that the boy's injuries were "too numerous to count," court documents obtained by the Republic state.
An hour later, Phoenix fire officials received a 911 call reporting a fire. While inside the home, fire officials located human remains that were late identified as 13-year-old Ana's.
Police believe Rafael allegedly started a fire in an attempt to kill himself, but a neighbor reported the blaze, according to the Republic. Ana's body was hidden within the drywall of the home.
During police questioning, Rafael allegedly told police the body belonged to Ana, also known as Charisma Marquez, according to KIRO.
According to police, Rafael claimed that in July 2017, the girl became violently ill. The couple waited to take her to the hospital, but after a few days, they decided to get help for her. While on the way to the hospital, the child died, Rafael claimed.
Afraid authorities would take their other children, the couple decided to wrap Charisma's body in a sheet and hide it in the attic, Rafael allegedly told authorities.
The exact date of of Ana's death is unknown. But according to witnesses she was last seen alive in 2016, police said Friday. The Office of the Medical Examiner ruled her death as a homicide.
Robert Precht, attorney for Maribel Loera, and Miranda Stark, a lawyer representing Rafael Loera, didn't immediately return PEOPLE's calls seeking comment.
In Feb. 2020, both Maribel and Rafael pleaded not guilty to the initial charges against them, according to AZCentral.com.