Authorities say they have found the body of a missing college student from Pembroke Pines who disappeared a week ago. A maintenance worker who entered her apartment unauthorized the day she disappeared and later killed himself is the prime suspect.
Orange County Sheriff John Mina said Saturday that authorities found Miya Marcano’s body in a wooded area near an apartment building. Authorities said the 19-year-old, who graduated from Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, vanished on the same day a maintenance man improperly used a master key to enter her apartment. Her family reported her missing after she missed a flight home to Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 24.
Mina said his department notified her parents Saturday afternoon, adding “our hearts are broken.”
“Everyone wanted this outcome to be different,” he said. “As a sheriff, as a father, obviously we are grieving at the loss of Miya.”
In South Florida, condolences for family members started to appear on social media, including a Facebook post from the Miami Broward One Carnival Host Committee, which said Miya had participated in parades it organizes to celebrate Caribbean culture.
Joan Justin Hinkson, who chairs the organization, called Miya “a beautiful spirit” who “was a special part of our Carnival family.” Hinkson could not be immediately reached for comment.
Miya is the daughter of Marlon Marcano, a Trinidadian who lives in Miami and is known as DJ Eternal Vibes.
The young woman’s stepmother, Giselle “The Wassi One” Blanche,“ is a well-known media personality in the Caribbean community,” according to the online Loop Caribbean News.
Neither the father nor stepmother could be reached for comment.
More than 100 people gathered at Arden Villas, the apartment complex where Marcano and Caballero worked, for a candlelight vigil on Saturday night. Dozens of candles lined the curb in front of the building where Marcano lived, and flowers and signs expressing love for her and contempt for property managers covered the grass.
“It’s been tragic, it’s been horrible, it’s not something we were looking forward for,” said Violet Deville, Marcano’s grandmother. “Even though some of us had it in the back of our minds, we still had hope that we would find her alive.”
Many who attended shed tears over a playlist of gospel music and took turns laying bouquets at the memorial. Balloons were released at the end of the vigil to the song “Up & Up” by Skinny Fabulous, Marcano’s favorite artist.
“Miya was my everything,” said Caili Sue, Marcano’s cousin. “She was my little cousin biologically, but she was the little sister I thought I never wanted but was so grateful to have.”
Adriana Sue, her godmother, added, “I miss my baby, and I wish she had come home today.”
British Virgin Islands Premier Andrew Fahie and Minister Kye Rymer, friends of Marcano’s family, also attended the vigil. They announced that there will be a ceremony in her honor at Tortola, the country’s largest island. Part of her family is from the British Virgin Islands.
“In these times, caring means much more than silver and gold,” Fahie said.
Marcano had repeatedly “rebuffed” romantic advances by Caballero. Detectives spoke to Caballero after the Valencia College student was reported missing, but had no evidence to detain him at that time. They obtained a warrant for his arrest after learning he had entered her apartment before she disappeared. His body was then found inside a garage.
Cellphone records from Caballero led them to the apartment complex near where Marcano was found and showed he was there for about 20 minutes the night she was reported missing, Sheriff Mina said. At one point, Caballero also previously lived at that apartment complex.
“Nothing in the records indicate that he ever returned there before he killed himself,” Mina said, adding deputies are not looking for any other suspects.
The FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were among the hundreds of authorities searching for Marcano. Meanwhile, friends and family held a prayer vigil and passed out flyers desperate to find the missing teen.
“At this time, we cannot identify a cause of death, so I don’t’ want to speculate on that,” Mina said of Marcano’s death during a news conference Saturday.
An autopsy will determine a cause of death and a medical examiner will positively identify Marcano, though Mina said deputies are certain it is her as her purse with her ID was found nearby.
By Saturday afternoon, deputies were only allowing residents inside the Tymber Skan apartments as police investigated. A medical examiner vehicle also entered the complex.
Caballero’s criminal history revealed one prior arrest in 2013 for using a destructive device resulting in property damage and discharging a weapon on school property, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
An arrest report said Polk County sheriff’s deputies were called to the campus of Warner University after a report of a bomb going off inside a dorm. The explosive turned out to be a toilet bowl cleaner concoction inside a plastic drink bottle. The report said Caballero admitted to using the improvised explosive as a “prank” on other residents of the dorm. No one was injured.
Arden Villa released a statement saying “all potential employees are vetted through a national background check services provider,” and no records of burglary or sexual assault were found involving Caballero.
But residents at Arden Villas and Marcano’s family have not hesitated to make known their frustration with the apartment complex’s management.
Signs taped to walls around the complex claim The Preiss Company, the North Carolina-based corporation that touts itself as a top-10 U.S. student housing provider, is “responsible” for the disappearance of Marcano.
“PRIESS CO: YOU HAVE MIYA’S BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS,” said the unsigned flyers, which list the phone numbers for Preiss’ headquarters in Raleigh, its CEO and the complex’s property manager.
Meanwhile, the balconies of several units had signs affixed to their guardrails also critical of the complex. “Arden Villas is responsible for Maya’s kidnapping!!!” read one.
“This could’ve all been avoided had they had a correct and proper hiring process and making sure that workers don’t have access to tenants’ units when they’re not in their room,” said Caili Sue, Marcano’s cousin.
“Wherever you are,” Deville said, “remember we will always love you and never ever forget you.”
Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel contributed to this article.