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Skeletal remains were found in the home of an Arizona high school employee who is accused of setting his house on fire an hour after protective services removed children from his care, authorities said.
The Phoenix Fire Department responded to a house fire Tuesday, and soon made a grim discovery: human bones, the Phoenix Police Department said in a press release.
The skeletal remains are believed to be that of a child, the Associated Press reports.
Just one hour earlier, the Department of Child Safety removed two children, ages 4 and 9, from the home. A week prior to that, an 11-year-old girl was removed from the house after she called police to tell them she was home alone. “Officers discovered evidence of child abuse in that incident,” police said.
Rafael Loera, 56, now faces charges of concealing human body parts, endangerment, child abuse and arson. His wife, 50-year-old Maribel Loera, faces child abuse charges.
While the identity of the child’s remains has not been disclosed, prosecutors allege the victim may have been killed during an episode of child abuse, possibly at the hands of Maribel.
“She allegedly participated in concealing the body of a deceased child in the family home to conceal any questioning into what happened to that child,” prosecutor Sarah Corcoran said, according to the Associated Press.
The prosecutor claims that Rafael admitted to hiding the corpse.
“He is alleged to have done nothing to prevent the abuse of the victims although he allegedly admitted that he knew that it was happening and he allegedly admitted that he left the victims in the care of the co-suspect knowing that the abuse was happening,” Corcoran said.
The couple have been ordered held on a $200,000 cash-only bond. They have been described as the three children's parents, police said during a press conference. It's not clear if they have attorneys.
Rafael Loera was an employee at Sierra Linda High School in Phoenix, a spokesperson for the school confirmed to Oxygen.com. They said in a statement that Loera won't be returning to the school and that they are "troubled by this incident."
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