The Miya Marcano Case

October 18, 2021 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Violent Crimes

Just a few weeks after Gabby Petito’s body was found by police, another Florida woman had been classified as missing. Nineteen-year-old Miya Marcano was last seen near the Arden Villa apartments where she lived and worked in Orlando, Florida. She was supposed to take a trip down to South Florida to see her family, but after missing the flight her family became worried and reported her missing on September 24th, 2021.

On the same day that Miya had vanished, a maintenance worker from Arden Villas had improperly used a master key to enter her apartment. Armando Caballero, twenty-seven years old, was the maintenance worker who quickly became the prime suspect of the case. The authorities had spoken to Caballero after Miya’s disappearance but had no evidence to detain him at that time. Police later found out that Caballero had been repeatedly harassing Miya with romantic advances at work. Three days after Miya was last seen, Caballero’s body was found in a garage where he supposedly killed himself. On October 2nd, police found what they believed to be Miya’s body in a forested area near the Tymber Skan apartment complex. Three days later on October 5th, 2021, authorities announced that it was in fact Miya Marcano that had been found.

Details From the Case

Over sixty detectives were working to try and find Miya. There was a search party of 175 people who covered the grounds of three counties, including the help from helicopters and a dive team. The FBI became involved and announced on Friday, October 1st that they were providing additional help to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

When they first spoke to Caballero, he initially told the police that he last saw Miya on September 24th around 3 P.M. Police uncovered that an electronic master key was used to enter Miya’s apartment on the Friday afternoon when she was last seen. Realizing that Caballero’s job authorized him to obtain one of the master keys, the police set out to initiate a warrant for his arrest.

John W. Mina, an Orange County Sheriff, gave a press conference on October 2nd regarding the case. Mina claimed that it appeared Caballero had entered Miya’s apartment the day she was last seen. Mina said it seemed he was only there for about twenty minutes, and there wasn’t any indication that he had returned at any point.

After further review, Mina addressed that Caballero had been waiting for Miya from inside her apartment on September 24th. He killed Miya and then hid her body at a different Orlando apartment complex. Mina also revealed that Miya was found bound at her hands and feet with duct tape, wearing just jeans, a bra, and a robe. There is no indication of sexual assault of any kind as of now, but authorities are still waiting for the cause of death to be determined by the coroner’s office.

Cellphone records indicate that Caballero was near the Tymber Skan apartments—where Miya’s body has recently been found—on the night she had gone missing. Sheriff Mina believes it is “pretty conclusive” that Caballero was the person responsible for Miya’s disappearance and death, further stating that they are not looking for any other people connected to the case right now.

On September 27th, just three days after Miya was reported missing, officers went back to Caballero’s apartment and found him dead. They had gone with a warrant for his arrest but instead realized that he had committed suicide in a garage at the Camden Club Apartments in Orlando, Florida. Considering the timing and connection with the case, police are theorizing that this was Caballero’s affirmation of guilt in the case.

Caballero’s Past with the Law

A deep dive into Caballero’s past shows that he had been in trouble with the law before. In December of 2013, Polk County sheriffs arrested him on the charges of destructive device resulting in property damage and discharging a weapon on school property.

Warner University campus had to call the police after there was a report of a bomb going off inside one of the dorms. This “explosive” turned out to be a mixture of toilet cleaner and other chemicals inside of a plastic bottle. When addressed, Caballero admitted that he was the one to make the concoction but had no intention of hurting anyone. It was meant to be a prank on the other residents of the dorm.

This also wasn’t Caballero’s first incident with being pushy towards a woman he was interested in. Back in March of 2021, a woman called the police due to a weight being thrown through her window. Caballero supposedly left a note trying to push for a date with the woman at the Seminole County apartment complex. Video footage from the incident shows police arriving at the scene, concluding that a weight had been thrown through the woman’s window after she had turned down advances made by Caballero. Caballero was never charged for the incident.

Additional footage given to Wesh2 news shows a man matching descriptions of Armando Caballero parking a car and walking into a nearby building. The video is from the day after Miya went missing. What is concerning in the video clip is that the man is carrying gloves and a blanket. After a closer look, the license plate of the car in the clip matches the one that deputies towed away belonging to Caballero.

Miya’s cousin, Caili Sue, spoke to The Sun about Caballero’s unhealthy obsession with Miya. She said he was constantly texting her, despite Miya making it clear that she was not interested. Miya admitted to Sue and other friends that the advances Caballero was trying to make made her feel uncomfortable.

Reactions From Those Who Knew Miya

One of Miya’s professors at Valencia College, Nicholas DeArmas, spoke out about Miya’s case. He taught Miya in two writing courses and commended her on being a responsible student who deeply loved her family and appeared to be a great friend.

When he noticed the missing photos go viral, Professor DeArmas sent a message to Miya. He told the New York Times his message went along the lines of, “I don’t know what’s wrong. I don’t know what may have happened but it’s going to be OK. Just come back.” Upon returning to the classroom, DeArmas plans to place flowers on the chair where Miya used to sit during class.

The Arden Villas apartment complex where Miya worked says that they will provide grief counselors on-site for the residents who feel they need it. In a statement they said, “[t]he loss of Miya’s brilliant light and loving spirit is one that will forever reverberate in those lives she touched.”

In the police press conference held after finding Miya’s remains, Sheriff Mina is quoted: “As a community, as a sheriff, as a father, obviously we are grieving the loss of Miya. Again, we can’t imagine the pain and anguish that Miya’s parents, family, and loved ones and friends—really our entire community—have gone through and will continue to go through.”

Miya’s family held a candlelit vigil for all her friends and close relatives. In a recent Instagram post, Miya’s father posted that he just wanted to “feel whole again.” As of now, the police have not announced what the cause of death was. They are waiting to hear back from the coroner’s office. For now, family, friends, and the entire community mourn over another death of a young woman gone too soon.

Disproportionate Screen Time with Missing Women of Color

After the media attention that came with the Gabby Petito case, there was an outcry for attentiveness toward other missing cases of Black, Latina, and Indigenous women who are reported missing but go unnoticed. There has been a bigger conversation on the ongoing issue of “Missing White Women Syndrome,” a term coined by journalist Gwen Ifill describing the phenomenon of the media’s extensive and somewhat obsessive coverage of missing women when they fit the description of white, young, beautiful, and middle class. Read more about the Missing White Woman Syndrome here.

Despite the latest outcry from the Gabby Petito case—or maybe as a direct outcome of it—the Miya Marcano case received coverage almost immediately. It seems that students at her university played a big role in the circulation of the news. University of Central Florida Criminal Justice Professor Bethany Backes spoke about how Miya’s fellow students helped raise public awareness of Miya’s disappearance by posting fliers and posters around campus, as well as sharing posts through social media.

It clearly worked—news organizations in Florida were quick to make up for the disproportionate attention on the Petito case by now covering a woman of color. “It’s just how we frame victims and stigmatize, or kind of assign, what a deserving victim is,” Backes commented on the issue of missing women and their screen time in the news. Backes added that because of the nature of the case, meaning because this was a young student who had no relationship with the suspect, it could have caused it to receive more attention than other missing cases.

Another University of Central Florida professor, Catherine Kaukinen, spoke about how a woman’s intimate partner is often the main suspect when they are reported dead. “What we need is coverage. If these women are still alive, then quick coverage by the media can help the police get information. I mean, unfortunately, in both cases, it was too late.”

With yet another missing woman case ending in the death of an innocent young girl, it is important to focus on what is causing this horrifying issue to become more prominent. The fact that Miya turned down a man’s advances is no reason for someone to try and push farther, ending in disappearance and death. Hopefully, these cases exemplify the ongoing concern of men acting out of line when they get rejected by women and show that no more young girls have to suffer in the ways that both Gabby Petito and Miya Marcano did.

As Miya’s family prepares for her funeral, they have also started the Miya Marcano Foundation, which aims to provide help and resources to the families of missing persons. The family’s attorney has initiated litigation against the complex where Miya lived and worked. In addition, a law called The Miya Marcano Law is in the works, to make it more difficult for apartment complex workers to have access to units without the tenant’s permission. The family is asking for donations to their foundation instead of receiving flowers.

 This article was written by Karissa Key

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