ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The family of a slain college student says a sheriff's deputy dismissed evidence that allowed the man suspected of killing her to drive away two days before he was found dead of an apparent suicide.
Orange County Sheriff John Mina defended his agency's investigation into the disappearance of 19-year-old Miya Marcano, whose body was found a week after she vanished, her arms and legs bound with black duct tape.
But the Marcano family's lawyer released a cellphone video that they say shows a deputy ignoring suspicious statements by Armando Caballero, 27, hours after she vanished. The lawyer also accused the deputy of saying that her disappearance “wasn’t a high priority case.”
The video shows Caballero, a maintenance worker at the complex where Marcano lived and worked, speaking to a deputy near Marcano's Arden Villas apartment around 4 a.m. on Sept. 25, as her family stands nearby. They accuse him in front of the deputy of having pursued a relationship with the woman despite her refusals, and they say they have cellphone records to prove it. He denies being a stalker.
“Until we figure out what is going on, just don’t beat me up,” Caballero responds according to a .
“Nobody is beating you up,” family members say.
“If I was guilty, why would I be here?” he replies.
“You put yourself in the middle right here. You brought yourself over here,” another family member replies.
“’Cause we’re concerned,” Caballero said.
Marcano's family questioned why Caballero was allowed to drive away. Attorney Daryl K. Washington said they still don't know whether she was still alive at the time.
But the sheriff said deputies didn’t have probable cause to detain or arrest Caballero at that time. He became a prime suspect after security video showed him entering her apartment before she vanished, and he was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot on Sept. 27 as authorities sought his arrest.
Mina also released a timeline of the investigation, which said Caballero was at the Tymber Skan apartments, where Marcano's body was found, between 8:20 p.m. and 8:40 p.m. on Sept. 24, about an hour before her parents reported they were unable to reach their daughter.
“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,” the sheriff said at a Wednesday news conference. “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.”
Investigators now believe Caballero used a master key and was waiting inside Marcano's apartment on the evening of Sept. 24. Her cause of death hasn't been determined but Mina said there was no indication of sexual assault.
Mina said investigators found her body using Caballero's cell phone data, which put him near the spot for about 20 minutes on Sept. 24, just before Marcano's family became concerned that she had missed a flight home to South Florida.
They reported her missing and drove to Orlando to check on her, arriving around 3 a.m. on Sept. 25, their statement said.
A security guard tried to lift fingerprints from Marcano's window while the family searched her apartment, they said, and then tried to give the possible fingerprints to a responding deputy, but the deputy did not take them, saying this “wasn’t a high priority case,” the statement said.
The sheriff said his agency will “look into every part of this investigation to see and to make sure everything possible was done in our quest to find Miya.”
Marcano was in her second year Valencia College in Orlando, pursuing an arts degree.