Coroner says child was raped in days before being killed

ROCK HILL, S.C. – York County’s coroner says a 14-year-old found dead in a house fire this week had been sexually assaulted a few days earlier.

“We’re narrowing down the timeline, but it appears the assault took place within several days of her death,” Coroner Doug McKown said Wednesday.

Additional tests are being conducted to determine if a DNA sample from Denia Meza was present that could be linked to her attacker, he said.

Dental records provided positive identification for Denia and Denise Meza, 8. The coroner has not been able to positively identify two other bodies recovered from the fire scene. They are believed to be 5-year-old Jairo Meza and Marbely Meza, 30. She is the mother of the three children who died when their throats were slashed before a fire was set in the home they rented.

Marbely Meza had wounds on her arm and died of smoke inhalation along with Jose Denis Meza, 39.

It is unclear if a wound on Marbely Meza’s arm that could have incapacitated her was suicidal or defensive, McKown said.

Jose Meza had been charged July 16 with sexually abusing his 14-year-old daughter. A court ordered him to keep away from Denia Meza, but neighbors say he continued to visit the house including on Sunday morning before the fire.

Investigators are still trying to determine which of the two adults slashed the children’s throats.

Capt. Glenn Williams of the York County Sheriff’s Office said police recovered two knives in the bedroom all five bodies were found in.

Marbely Meza’s family members spent part of Wednesday sorting through the rubble at the burned-out shell of the house. They found notes, family pictures, a report by 8-year-old Denise and her big sister’s pony tail, cut a year ago and found in a shed.

“We’re confused,” said Ludania Pao of Rock Hill, a cousin of Marbely. “We have so many questions.”

[Keywords: denis meza]

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Associated Press, USA
Aug. 12, 2004

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