Attorney for slain Florida student's family: Orange sheriff’s defense of investigation is ‘shameful’

By Grace Toohey

ORLANDO, Fla. — The attorney for Miya Marcano’s family on Friday continued to criticize the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for its investigation into the 19-year-old’s disappearance and death, calling the sheriff’s defense of the agency’s work “totally insulting.”

“It was shameful to say that no matter what they did or didn’t do, that Miya was dead anyway,” Daryl K. Washington said in a statement Friday. “... This in no way excuses the deputies from doing a job they are paid to do.”

Marcano, a Valencia College student who lived and worked at the Arden Villas apartments near UCF, was reported missing Sept. 24, beginning an eight-day search until she was found dead Saturday. Officials have said that 27-year-old Armando Caballero, who worked maintenance for the Arden Villas complex, is responsible for her killing. Caballero was found dead by suicide days before Marcano’s body was discovered.

Earlier this week, Washington questioned the Sheriff’s Office investigation into Marcano’s disappearance, raising concerns that deputies didn’t immediately take the case seriously and let Caballero, later called the “prime suspect” in her death, go free hours after she was reported missing.

But Sheriff John Mina responded at a news conference Wednesday evening, explaining that deputies did not at the time have probable cause to detain or arrest Caballero. He also noted Marcano is believed to have died before deputies were even called to check on her. However, Mina added that his agency would review its response to ensure everything was handled properly.

OCSO officials did not immediately respond to Washington’s further criticism Friday.

Washington said it was “totally insulting” that Mina described as a “hunch” concerns about Caballero that the family shared with deputies hours after Marcano’s disappearance. He released a video earlier this week of a tense encounter among members of Marcano’s family, Caballero and a deputy about 4 a.m. Sept. 25, when the family said they saw Caballero with a key fob and a blanket that belonged to Marcano.

In the video, Marcano’s loved ones claimed that Caballero had sent her “obsessive texts” and money via CashApp — and had “talked about giving her (his) life savings.”

“This family provided more than enough evidence, including a video of Caballero carrying Miya’s blanket in his apartment,” Washington said Friday. “... More action should have been taken while Caballero was within arm’s reach of the deputy.

Washington said he was also concerned that Mina, in his Wednesday news conference, said the deputy who first checked Marcano’s apartment mentioned it was clean.

“However that same responding deputy informed Miya’s mother that the room looked ‘disturbing’ and that she should start the process to list Miya as a missing person,” Washington said.

The lawyer said that, during the initial check and before Marcano’s family drove up from South Florida, the deputy found a dresser blocking Marcano’s bedroom door, forcing her roommate to enter the room through a window, which had been tampered with.

OCSO has not released the report from that first welfare check.

“Why didn’t the deputies immediately make Miya’s room a crime scene, start viewing cameras and pulling the key FOB records immediately?” Washington said. “We believe this process should’ve started even before the family arrived at 3 a.m. ... We hope that the Orange County Sheriff’s Office will use this moment as an opportunity to learn from the mistakes that were made as opposed to defending actions that are indefensible.”

Marcano was first reported missing Sept. 24, after her family said she didn’t make a flight home to South Florida from Orlando.

Three days later, Caballero was found dead by suicide at a Seminole County apartment complex and officials revealed he was considered at the time a person of interest in her disappearance. Officials learned that Caballero had entered Marcano’s apartment with a master key minutes before she was last seen alive. Mina said Caballero had repeatedly made unwanted romantic advances toward Marcano.

Deputies later followed data from Caballero’s cell phone to the Tymber Skan Apartments, where they found her body Saturday. Mina said she was only wearing jeans and a bra, and her feet and hands were tied together with black duct tape. Her mouth was also taped shut. Deputies also found her with a purse, which was holding the shirt she was last seen wearing, and a robe.

Washington said Marcano’s funeral arrangements will be finalized soon, to be scheduled sometime next week.


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