• The San Juan Daily Star

Body believed to be Miya Marcano’s is found, sheriff says

A flier for Miya Marcano was posted on the University of Central Florida campus in Orlando last week.

By Eduardo Medina

A body believed to be that of Miya Marcano, a 19-year-old college student reported missing last month, was found in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday, authorities said.

Marcano had been missing since Sept. 24, when she was last seen in a red shirt and jeans at the Arden Villas apartment complex in Orlando, where she worked and lived, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.

On Saturday, searchers found what they believed to be Marcano’s body in a wooded area near Tymber Skan apartments in Orlando, about 20 miles from the apartment complex where she lived, authorities said.

“Our hearts are broken,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina said at a news conference Saturday.

Valencia College, where Marcano was a student, said in a statement that “the entire Valencia community is grieving the loss of one of our own.”

Mina said officials could not yet identify a cause of death. “Although we are very certain of the identity, the positive identification will have to come from the medical examiner’s office,” he said.

Authorities have said Armando Manuel Caballero, 27, was a “person of interest” in Marcano’s disappearance. Caballero was a maintenance worker at the Arden Villas apartments and had expressed a romantic interest in Marcano, but she “repeatedly rebuffed” him, Mina said at a news conference Thursday.

Caballero had initially told investigators that he last saw Marcano at 3 p.m. on the day she was last seen.

Investigators obtained an arrest warrant for him because a maintenance-issued master key fob, which Caballero was known to be in possession of, was used to enter Marcano’s apartment on the Friday afternoon she was last seen, Mina said.

On Sept. 27, officers found Caballero dead from what appeared to be suicide in the Camden Club Apartments in an Orlando suburb. The sheriff’s office then labeled him the prime suspect in her disappearance.

Cellphone records showed Caballero was near the Tymber Skan apartments — where the remains believed to be Marcano’s were found — on the night she was reported missing.

“He was there for about 20 minutes,” Mina said. “Nothing in the records indicate that he ever returned there prior to killing himself.”

More than 60 detectives had been working on the case. Search efforts spanned three counties and included 175 people, helicopters and dive teams. The FBI announced Friday that it was helping the sheriff’s office with the case.

Mina said officials believed “pretty conclusively” that Caballero was responsible, adding that they would not be looking for other people in connection to the case.

“As a community, as a sheriff, as a father, obviously we are grieving the loss of Miya,” he said. “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.”

On Saturday morning, Marcano’s father, Marlon, said on Instagram that his heart was broken. “I need it to be whole again,” he said.

Marcano, who placed second in the Virgin Islands Prince and Princess Pageant in 2012, was often called “the family’s princess,” her relatives said at a news conference Monday.

The Arden Villas apartment complex, which houses some college students, said in a statement that “the loss of Miya’s brilliant light and loving spirit is one that will forever reverberate in those whose lives she touched.” The complex said it was planning to have grief counselors available on site for residents.

Marcano’s disappearance follows that of Gabrielle Petito, a white woman who was reported missing last month and whose widely publicized case raised new questions about the tens of thousands of women and girls — many of them Black, Latina or Indigenous — who are reported missing each year and go unnoticed.

“There was an outcry when Gabby Petito’s case got a lot of attention, so I think coming so quickly on the cusp of that case, people were very outspoken about our murdered and missing women of color,” especially the case of Marcano, said Dr. Bethany Backes, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Central Florida.

Students at the university, which is in Orlando, played a key role in raising public awareness about Marcano’s disappearance, Backes said.

Some students knew her, and others live in the same apartment complex where she worked and lived, Backes said. Across the campus, flyers and posters had been plastered on buildings and elevators, and student groups worked to raise awareness about her online.

News organizations, she said, were also quick to try to make up for the disproportionate attention cast on Petito by covering a new case involving a woman of color.

“It’s just how we frame victims and stigmatize, or kind of assign, what a deserving victim is,” Backes said, adding that the nature of the case — a 19-year-old student who had no relationship with the suspect — had caused it to receive more attention.

When a woman is murdered, an intimate partner is often the main suspect, said Dr. Catherine Kaukinen, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Central Florida.

“What we need is coverage,” Kaukinen said. “If these women are still alive, then quick coverage by the media can help the police get information. I mean, unfortunately, in both these cases, it was too late.”

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