After a desperate week-long search to find missing Florida college student, Miya Marcano, local authorities announced that they found what they believe to be the body of the 19-year-old.
Orange County Sheriff John Mina said Saturday that emergency response team members found what’s believed to be Marcano’s remains in a wooded area near the Tymber Skan apartments in Orlando.
“Although we are very certain of the identity, the positive identification will have to come from the medical examiner’s office” said Mina said during a press conference which was live streamed online. “At this time we cannot identify a cause of death,” he said.
Marcano, a student at Valencia College, vanished from the Arden Villas apartments in Orlando, where she lived and also worked in the building’s leasing office. Her family reported her missing after she failed to board a flight home to Fort Lauderdale on September 24.
Maintenance worker Armando Caballero, 27, who entered her apartment unauthorized the day she disappeared and later killed himself, is the prime suspect.
Mina said Marcano’s family had been notified about the discovery of the body, which was found around 10:45 a.m. Saturday. He revealed that a purse with Marcano’s identification was also found near the body.
“Everyone wanted this outcome to be different,” he said. “As a sheriff, as a father obviously we are grieving at the loss of Miya. We can’t imagine the pain and anguish that Miya’s parents, loved ones, friends and our community have gone through and will continue to go through.”
Marcano is the daughter of Marlon Marcano, a popular Miami-based Trinidadian entertainer known as DJ Eternal Vibes. The teen’s stepmother, Giselle “The Wassi One” Blanche, is also a well-known media personality in South Florida’s Caribbean community and an influential figure in Miami carnival, an annual celebration of Caribbean culture which culminates next week. The college student was set to fly home to Fort Lauderdale in order to celebrate carnival with her family before her disappearance.
“I can’t even put into words how we’re feeling right now,” Marcano’s cousin Caili Sue told a Florida news station WESH during a Saturday night vigil. “As a family, I feel defeated, I feel like I failed my cousin, and I don’t know how we’re going to get through this.”
During the week-long search, a collective of Caribbean influencers including international soca music artists, media personalities and deejays mobilized on social media to raise awareness and rally their support behind the family to help find the missing 19-year-old.
As news of the discovery of Marcano’s remains spread, condolences for the family were seen across social media over the weekend. The Caribbean community, which had expressed an outpouring of support for the family, shared a sense of collective grief at the tragic news. Many posted black squares instead of photos.
“I’ve been crying since I heard the news and I understand the pain and emptiness you are feeling right now. This is every parent’s worst nightmare! A young vibrant beautiful soul has been taken from us and we mourn that loss with you,” wrote soca music superstar Alison Hinds on Instagram.
Joan Justin Hinkson, who chairs The Miami Broward One Carnival Host Committee called Miya “a beautiful spirit” who “was a special part of our Carnival family.” Marcano has participated in many of the annual parades it organizes to celebrate Caribbean culture in Florida.
“We promise to wrap our love around your family as you journey through one of the most difficult moments in your lives. We extend love and support around them to provide the healing and peace they will need as they move forward,” Hinkson said in an online statement.
Others did not hold back expressing their outrage that more wasn’t done to protect Marcano, at the place she not only worked, but also called home. And, they called for more to be done to protect women.
“We were truly expecting a different result. Miya Marcano, I’m sorry that the world failed you. I’m sorry that we live in a world that doesn’t allow you to be safe. You didn’t deserve this, you deserved better, ” said DJ Jel on Instagram.
Authorities said Caballero had expressed a romantic interest in Marcano but she repeatedly declined his advances. Caballero possessed a key fob to access apartments and it is believed his was used at Marcano’s unit to gain unauthorized access and abduct her, according to law enforcement officials.
“When we don’t teach our boys boundaries; when we don’t teach them that women’s bodies are not theirs to own or to control, they grow up into men who harm women. Who endanger women. Miya should still be alive,” author Joel L. Daniels shared online in response to the news.
On Sunday night, family members of Miya Marcano and their lawyer, national Civil Rights Attorney, Darryl K. Washington held a news conference calling for justice and for change.
“Death is something that is very difficult, but what makes death even more difficult is when it’s death that could’ve been prevented,” Washington said.
No lawsuit has been filed at this time. However, Washington says the apartment complex is negligent in some way and that the family is currently looking at every legal option available to them. He also says the family is not alone.
“We’ve had the opportunity to talk to young girls who are college students, young girls who are tenants at the Arden Villas apartments,” Washington said, “And people are living in fear because what happened to Miya could easily happen to one of them.”
An online petition is being circulated by many residents at Arden Villas apartments calling for more safeguards to protect residents.
Marcano’s family has plans to create a foundation in her name to raise awareness and to advocate for more stringent safety policies in apartment complexes.
“There need to be changes,” Washington said. “We’re going to make sure another young girl doesn’t have to deal with what Miya had to deal with.”