14-Year-Old Phoenix Girl Killed in Suspected Arson; "Person of Interest" Released

A 14-year-old girl was killed in an apartment fire in Phoenix over the weekend, and police believe someone set fire to the apartment.

However, Phoenix detectives' "person of interest" since has been released from custody.

The 14-year-old girl, Rosa Belen Zapien (also known as Rosa Ramirez), was one of five people found by firefighters inside the West Phoenix apartment early Sunday morning. The other people inside the apartment were Rosa's mother and her three younger siblings, ages 10, 3, and 3 months.

They were all hospitalized, but Rosa was pronounced dead. The two youngest children were listed as extremely critical, but everyone's showing signs of improvement, according to police.

Police had a person of interest detained and brought to Phoenix police headquarters within hours. A local TV news crew had reported Sunday morning that the mother of a children appeared to be a victim of domestic violence, suggesting that a boyfriend could be that person of interest.

However, here's what Phoenix Police Officer James Holmes wrote to media outlets Monday:

The "person of interest" in this investigation has been released. This person was detained by police based on information given at the time of the apartment fire. Our detectives spent hours conducting follow-up interviews with several people and it was determined that some of the information provided could not be substantiated and some information given was based on history or rumor and not eye witness accounts. Detectives could not immediately develop probably cause to arrest the person of interest and he was released; however, he remains a person of interest in this investigation.
Holmes also says that about 36 hours before the fire, someone had called police to the apartment, near 56th Avenue and McDowell Road, in reference to an assault. The responding officer knocked on the door several times, but no one answered.

"A 'neighbor' told the officers the residents of the apartment had left," Holmes says. "The citizen who called 9-1-1 had expressed no desire to be contacted."

Holmes says there are no further details at this time.

"The investigation from the scene, forensics and more interviews will be necessary to ensure the investigation is conducted properly and the correct suspect is brought to justice," he says.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley