The parents of Miya Marcano, a 19-year-old found dead a week after she was last seen at her Florida apartment, are suing a sheriff’s office over how deputies handled her disappearance.
Two Orange County sheriff’s deputies were “deliberately indifferent” to her family’s fears that something terrible happened to Marcano after they never heard from her in September 2021, when she missed a flight to Miami, according to a lawsuit filed Sept. 25.
The body of Marcano, a Valencia College student last seen at her Orlando apartment complex Sept. 24, 2021, was found about 17 miles away from her home in the woods on Oct. 2, 2021, according to authorities, the Miami Herald previously reported.
Armando Caballero, a man who worked at the complex where Marcano lived, is accused of killing her before dying by suicide, authorities said.
Deputy Samir Paulino, who conducted an initial welfare check at Marcano’s apartment on Sept. 24, 2021, upon her mother’s request, ignored “obvious warning signs” of a crime scene — including a blood stain on Marcano’s pillowcase, an open bedroom window, broken jewelry and more, the complaint says.
An internal investigation later conducted by the sheriff’s office noted these signs should “warrant an immediate response from a detective,” according to the complaint.
Paulino and another deputy didn’t treat Marcano’s disappearance as urgent, according to the lawsuit, which says if they had, it could have saved her life or led to her body sooner.
Marcano’s parents, Marlon Marcano and Yma Su-Ling Scarbriel, are suing the sheriff’s office, Paulino and another deputy, accusing them of failing to act on their pleas to help their daughter.
The family’s attorney, Michael B. Feiler, called the facts of the case “shocking” in a statement to McClatchy News on Sept. 26.
“There were so many opportunities to prevent this tragedy with even the slightest bit of care or competence on the part of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office,” Feiler said.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office declined a request for comment from McClatchy News on Sept. 26, saying it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit accuses the sheriff’s office of discriminating against missing women, either by not responding to their disappearance or “purposefully delaying” their response.
This practice led to Marcano’s death, the complaint says.
Case wasn’t treated at ‘priority’
After Paulino “failed to treat” Marcano’s apartment as a crime scene Sept. 24, 2021, he met with an apartment complex security guard who tried giving Paulino evidence hours later on Sept. 25, the complaint says.
The security guard told Paulino he suspected someone entered Marcano’s apartment window and that he obtained fingerprints from the apartment using tape, according to the complaint.
The guard tried giving Paulino the fingerprints, but Paulino smirked and told him “to keep the evidence in case it would be needed later,” making “it clear (to him) that Miya’s case was not a priority,” the complaint says.
After Marlon Marcano and other family members saw Marcano’s apartment, they sensed something was wrong — especially after speaking to Caballero, who arrived and appeared hurt, according to the complaint.
Marlon Marcano noticed Caballero’s face and hand was injured and suspected he “was hiding something” — resulting in him calling the sheriff’s office for a “proper investigation” into his daughter’s disappearance, the complaint says.
Ultimately, Paulino returned to the scene where he was provided with “critical” evidence and heard concerns about Caballero, according to the complaint, which says Caballero then confronted the family and an argument ensued.
Despite this, Paulino “did not summon anyone out for assistance or question Caballero about the claims being made against him,” the complaint says.
Paulino told his supervisor, Corporal Kenneth Dale, the other deputy named in the lawsuit, about the information he gathered — but the pair never notified the criminal investigations division, the complaint says.
Criminal investigation begins
A criminal investigation into Marcano’s disappearance began later that day after her aunt called the sheriff’s office, requesting a response, according to the complaint.
After another deputy responded to her request, visited Marcano’s apartment and learned the information Paulino and Dale were aware of, the investigation was launched, the complaint says.
Two days later, Caballero was found dead at his home on Sept. 27, 2021, before Marcano’s body was recovered, according to the complaint.
Caballero was reportedly interested in Marcano romantically, but the feeling wasn’t mutual, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the Miami Herald previously reported.
The complaint says Paulino and Dale still work for the sheriff’s office, which didn’t confirm the status of their employment when asked by McClatchy News.
A bill named after Marcano was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 27, 2022, in an effort to protect tenants, according to a news release from his office.
Under Miya’s Law, landlords must conduct background checks on all prospective employees, who cannot be hired if they’re found guilty of violent crimes or crimes related to disregarding safety, the release said.
The law also enforces other safety measures to protect renters.
The family’s lawsuit seeks to recover damages, including for the “conscious pain and mental anguish” Marcano experienced before she died, and other relief in connection with her death.
“While we cannot bring Miya back, we can only hope to bring justice to her family and protect other vulnerable victims like her in the future,” Feiler said.