Investigators have made a distressing discovery in the home of a couple leading to them both being charged with murder.
Ana Loera, from Phoenix in the US state of Arizona went missing in 2017.
Her adoptive parents Rafael Loera, 57, and Maribel Loera, 51, have both been in custody since January last year.
Police spoke with them in 2020 after a girl, 11, in their care disclosed acts of neglect. She told police she had been left alone for two days and was hungry and afraid.
The girl, who said Mrs Loera struck her on multiple occasions with knotted extension cords and slammed her head into walls, was removed from the home, but there were no other children there at the time.
Police removed two more children, a boy, four, and a girl, nine, from their care just days later.
Girl died while 'on the way to hospital', adoptive dad said
Police believe Ana died long before the other children were taken away.
Mr Loera has told police Ana fell ill while in his and his wife's care and he waited several days before trying to seek medical attention.
He told police Ana died on the way to hospital and he didn’t report her death fearing he would lose custody of the other adoptive children.
Both Loeras were charged with child abuse.
House fire leads to gruesome discovery
In January 2020, before the arrests, the family’s home was damaged by a fire.
When working on ventilation at the home, firefighters discovered human remains on top of the attic insulation.
Phoenix Police Department determined on Saturday the remains belonged to Ana.
Police documents obtained by ABC15 claim crews found “human bones which came from the ceiling, resting on top of the attic insulation”.
Mr Loera told investigators that he siphoned gasoline from his van and set the house on fire because he was feeling hopeless and suicidal, according to court records.
The couple allegedly kept the girl’s body in the attic, then later placed it in the backyard before setting their home on fire.
“The exact date of death is unknown however, according to witnesses she was last seen alive in 2016,” police said.
“The Office of the Medical Examiner ruled her death as a homicide.”
The couple have been charged with several counts of child abuse, concealment of a dead body, and arson of an occupied structure.
with The Associated Press
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