THATCHER, AZ - An Arizona Department of Child Safety case took a horrific turn Wednesday afternoon when the investigation led to the discovery of a 3-year-old girl buried in the backyard of a residence in Thatcher.
The child had allegedly been there for about two years.
Authorities exhumed the body from the backyard of a residence in the 3800 block of First Street after a Department of Child Safety worker learned of her existence during an interview with the victim’s alleged brother.
An extensive investigation, involving local and state agencies, was initiated to find the child and culminated with the discovery, according to a press release from the Thatcher Police Department.
The child had allegedly been missing since March 2012, which is when it is believed she died.
After removal, the body was transported to Tucson for further investigation, positive identification and an autopsy by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The victim’s alleged 28-year-old mother and her 23-year-old boyfriend, both of Thatcher, are under investigation as persons of interest in the death. They were granted a marriage license Feb. 26, 2013, but she refers to him as her boyfriend in police reports. Both are currently incarcerated at the Graham County Jail on charges unrelated to the death.
Child welfare workers began interviewing the victim's 11-year-old and 6-year-old brothers after they were discovered alone in a Safford motel room June 26. A Graham County Probation officer informed the Safford Police Department that he had been unable to locate his probationer, the boyfriend, on multiple occasions at the Tour Rest Motel at 110 W. 5th St. where he stayed with the mother and her children. The probation officer advised that each time he went by he saw the children there without adult supervision. He also learned that the boyfriend, who is on intensive probation for shoplifting and possession of a narcotic drug, was arrested in Globe on June 25. A petition to revoke his probation was filed Tuesday.
On June 26 at about 3:33 p.m., motel staff confirmed the boys were left alone in the room numerous times and were currently there by themselves. A Safford officer was granted entry and spoke with the children, who said they hadn’t seen their mother since the previous day when she left with her boyfriend to allegedly pick up a car in Casa Grande. A Department of Child Safety worker initially interviewed the children and took them into custody that night.
The children's mother was interviewed by Safford police June 30 and eventually admitted to leaving the children in the room to go with her boyfriend to Globe. She said she had an argument with him while there and got a ride back to Safford from a couple she had met at the Apache Gold Casino.
Authorities learned of the missing child on July 2.
Thatcher Police Chief Shaffen Woods has classified the case as a potential homicide that is still under investigation.
He thanked the other agencies for their assistance.
(ABC15 is not identifying the woman or her boyfriend as they have not been arrested or charged)