PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Official documents show that human remains found in a Phoenix home last week belong to a child who died in 2017.
Rafael and Maribel Loera were arrested after the skeletal remains of a child were found in a home near 59th Avenue and Camelback Road last week after officials were called to the home for a child abuse investigation.
What led officers to the home
On January 20, officers received a call from an 11-year-old girl who said she had been home alone for two days and was hungry. The girl said her foster mother, Maribel Loera, was in Minnesota with her younger siblings, a 4-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy.
Responding officers noticed the home was in "disarray" and had human feces throughout the floors.
Department of Child Safety officials took the child into custody.
A week later
DCS workers followed up at the Loera's home for the investigation into possible child abuse. Rafael answered the door and said his wife, Maribel, and two other children were inside. The children were signed over to DCS custody, but Maribel refused to speak with officials.
The 11-year-old had told officials that Maribel was physically abusive and would strike her with knotted extension cords. She had injuries consistent with being struck with a "rope like object."
She also told officials that she had an older sister who disappeared two years earlier. The girl was told by Maribel that her sister was adopted and sent to Columbia, but Rafael told her the sister was sent to Mexico.
Shortly after DCS left the home with the 4- and 9-year-old children, a fire was called out at the residence.
What firefighters found inside the home
After DCS left the home on Jan. 28, the Loeras told firefighters they started a fireplace fire and it got out of control.
Fire crews found a large hole in the ground and also attempted to ventilate the structure by pulling down parts of the drywall and ventilation.
"As they did so, they immediately stopped and observed what they perceived to be human bones which came from the ceiling, resting on top of the attic insulation," police paperwork says.
Fire officials immediately contacted Phoenix police to investigate.
Rafael told officials he siphoned gas from his vehicle and poured it around the fireplace, setting fire to it.
What happened to the fourth child?
Rafael was interviewed at Phoenix Police Headquarters and told officials about abuse against the 11- and 9-year-old children by Maribel. He said he never reported the abuse out of fear that police would hurt him. He said he was also abused by Maribel and tried to protect the children from her. He said he was working two jobs, at Amazon and Sierra Linda High School, so the 11-year-old was alone a majority of the day.
When asked about the adoptive child who had not been seen since 2017, Rafael said she moved to Mexico and did not want contact. He later admitted that the child had gotten sick in July 2017 and they waited several days to get her medical attention. Rafael says she died en route to the hospital.
Rafael says they feared their other children would be taken away, so they did not report her death. Rafael said the girl was abused by Maribel and her remains would "probably" show injuries.
They reportedly kept the girl's body in the attic.
Rafael said he felt "hopeless" and removed the girl's bones from the attic and placed them in the backyard before trying to set their home on fire.
According to court documents, Rafael was arrested on charges of arson, child abuse, abandoning or concealing a dead body and endangerment.
This story was originally published by staff at KNXV.