The body of Miya Marcano, found last weekend after an eight-day-long search across Central Florida, was bound with black duct tape across her mouth and tape also tying her hands and feet together, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said at a Wednesday evening press conference.
Mina said officials think 27-year-old Armando Caballero, a maintenance employee at the Arden Villas complex where Marcano lived, was waiting for her inside her apartment Sept. 24, before he killed her and dumped her body at another Orlando area apartment complex.
Marcano, 19, was found wearing jeans and a bra, as well as a robe, Mina said, and her purse was found nearby containing the shirt she was last seen wearing. Her cause of death has not yet been determined, but Mina said there is no indication she was sexually assaulted before her death.
Caballero was found dead by suicide at a Seminole County apartment complex days before Marcano’s body was found. His cell phone data, which put him at or near the Tymber Skan Apartments for about 20 minutes the evening Marcano’s family first reported her missing, led deputies to her body about a week later.
Mina defended his agency’s investigation into Marcano’s disappearance, following criticism from her family and their attorney, who accused the Sheriff’s Office of failing to initially take her disappearance seriously. The family also released a video from an encounter between Caballero, a deputy and Marcano’s loved ones in the hours after she went missing, but Caballero went free.
“I understand this family has been through unimaginable pain and loss, and we can’t begin to express the sorry that we feel for Miya’s family and loved ones,” Mina said. “Unfortunately, all these things that we’re talking about wouldn’t have prevented anything. She was already left dead at Tymber Skan apartments before we were ever called.”
Mina said he understands the family wants to place blame somewhere, but was clear that “the person responsible for Miya’s death is Armando Caballero.”
After Marcano missed a Sept. 24 flight from Orlando to visit her family in South Florida, her family asked the Sheriff’s Office to check on her at the Arden Villas apartments near UCF, where she lived and worked, according to the statement from Jodi Lewis, a spokesperson for the family’s attorney Daryl K. Washington.
During that welfare check, the deputy found Marcano’s bedroom door was blocked from opening by a dresser, which meant a roommate had to enter Marcano’s room from a back window, the statement said, adding that a responding deputy “noticed the window had been tampered with.”
“The deputy communicated to Miya’s mother that based on the condition of the room, it appeared something happened, however the deputy left, and the family didn’t hear back with any information about what the deputy intended to do,” the statement said.
Marcano’s family said they got little information from OCSO for hours while deputies brushed off their concerns. Later, according to the video also released by the family Wednesday, a deputy let Caballero, later named a “prime suspect” in Marcano’s disappearance, drive away.
Mina said the deputies did not have probable cause to detain or arrest Caballero at the time of the video and that initial interaction with him early Sept. 25. He did not confirm or deny that Marcano’s room was blocked by the dresser or the window was tampered with, but said the deputy that night took a detailed report.
“The deputies made comments about how clean the apartment was,” Mina said. He said deputies continued to update Marcano’s parents about the investigation daily, but he also said his agency will review the probe to ensure it was properly handled.
“We’re going to look into every part of this investigation to see and to make sure everything possible was done in our quest to find Miya,” Mina said. He also released a timeline of the investigation Wednesday, which said Caballero was at the Tymber Skan apartments between 8:20 p.m. and 8:40 p.m. Sept. 24, about an hour before Marcano’s parents reported they were unable to reach their daughter. Investigators days later determined Caballero had, without reason, entered her apartment with a master key not long before she disappeared.
Marcano, a graduate of Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, was in her second year at Valencia College in Orlando, pursuing an arts degree.
Marcano’s relatives drove up from South Florida to her apartment complex, arriving about 3 a.m. Sept. 25, their statement said. They said a security guard tried to lift fingerprints from Marcano’s window while the family searched her apartment, finding a box cutter that wasn’t hers under a rug in the room.
Later, when a deputy sheriff arrived, the security guard tried to give him the possible fingerprints, but the deputy did not take them and said this “wasn’t a high priority case,” the statement said.
The law firm representing the Marcano family released a video that the firm said shows family members confronting Caballero as he spoke to an Orange County deputy about 4 a.m. Saturday, hours after Marcano missed her flight.
In the three-minute clip, Marcano’s relatives questioned Caballero about how he knew of her disappearance and why he was at the Arden Villas complex in the early morning hours.
”You have sent obsessive texts to Miya,” someone off-camera who cannot be seen said to Caballero, adding he had also sent the young woman money via CashApp. “We have all seen the texts. You talked about giving her your life savings.”
Caballero responded incredulously to that claim.
”I never said that,” he said. When the same person suggested Caballero’s cell phone records would be pulled by law enforcement, he replied, “Do what you have to do.”
The person accused Caballero of having an “obsession” with Marcano. He claimed the interest was mutual.
”It’s not only from my side, so don’t try to make this like I’m a stalker,” he said. “… Until we figure out what’s going on, just don’t beat me up. If I’m guilty why would I come here.”
He said he came because he was “concerned.”
After the back-and-forth with the family, Caballero again spoke with the deputy for a few seconds before getting back into his car, the video showed.
The family’s statement said Caballero was off work and had no reason to be at Arden Villas. The family also said they told the deputy that they saw a key fob fall out of Caballero’s lap as he got out of the car and noticed he had Miya’s blanket in his car.
“At the time the video was taken there was no basis for our deputies to detain or arrest Armando Caballero,” Mina said.
The family said they asked the apartment complex and OCSO officials the following morning to review the complex’s security camera footage and key fob access, but apartment management said they couldn’t do that without a request from law enforcement, which OCSO hadn’t yet done.
“What’s more disappointing is that the deputy told the family that if they had not heard from their daughter by Tuesday, they would come out and view the cameras and read the key fob,” the statement said. Tuesday would have been four days after the family reported Marcano missing.
“For seven to eight days, this family had to go through pain that they will never be able to get rid of because so many people dropped the ball,” Daryl K. Washington said Wednesday, criticizing both the OCSO investigation and inaction by Arden Villas management.
Staff writers Jeff Weiner and Lisa Maria Garza contributed to this report.