Couple set fire after kids taken; skeleton found

A Phoenix couple is facing charges they set their house on fire only an hour after authorities had been there to remove a 9-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl over child abuse allegations, authorities said Wednesday.

Skeletal remains were found inside the house Tuesday night by firefighters, leading to an additional charge against the couple, police said.

Rafael Loera, 56, and Maribel Loera, 50, were being held on charges of arson, child abuse and concealment of a dead body. It was not immediately known if they have lawyers to speak on their behalf.

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 obtained a court order to remove the two other children and went there on Tuesday, DaRonco said.

An hour after the boy and girl were removed, someone reported seeing smoke coming from the house.

Responding firefighters then 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. The house didn’t have visible external damage from the fire.

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