The sheriff leading the investigation of the murder of Florida college student Miya Marcano defended the investigation after Marcano’s family this week released video of a deputy allowing the suspect in the killing to drive away.
Deputies didn’t have probable cause to detain the man, Armando Manuel Caballero, the day after Marcano’s family reported her disappearance, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said Wednesday.
Caballero was found dead Sept. 27 by apparent suicide. Authorities aren’t sure when he died.
Marcano’s family released a video of a heated encounter with Caballero that ended with a deputy’s allowing him to leave, NBC affiliate WESH of Orlando reported.
“There’s not enough there in that video or enough that happened that night for probable cause to make an arrest or anything to establish any facts that, you know, this person has to be detained,” Mina said. “Unfortunately, you know, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. We talk to suspects all the time, and we know they’re the person, we know they did it, and sometimes even months later we know there’s still a suspect.”
Marcano, 19, was last seen Sept. 24 at her home in the Arden Villas apartment complex in Orlando, about a mile from the University of Central Florida. Marcano, a sophomore at Valencia College, was supposed to fly home to Fort Lauderdale that day but didn’t show up for her flight.
A body found over the weekend was identified Tuesday as that of Marcano by the coroner, who didn’t give a cause of death. She was found with her hands and legs bound, and her mouth was covered by tape, Mina confirmed Wednesday.
Caballero, 27, a maintenance worker at the Arden Villas apartment complex, is the suspect in Marcano’s death, authorities say. He expressed romantic interest in Marcano, which she “rebuffed,” and he had access to a master key to her apartment, Mina said.
Detectives said he used his key to gain access to Marcano’s apartment at about 4:30 p.m., about half an hour before the end of her shift in the leasing office. It remains unclear whether he had a plan to kill her or what exactly unfolded between them, Mina said.
In the video obtained by WESH, Marcano’s family confronted Caballero about his “obsession” with her. Caballero told them that he was concerned and said, “Until we know what’s going on, just don’t beat me up.”
Her family’s attorney, Daryl Washington, accused deputies of saying Marcano’s disappearance wasn’t a “high-priority case” and refusing fingerprints from Marcano’s window offered to them by a security guard, WESH reported.
“They reported to the deputy who was now on scene that a key fob dropped out of Caballero’s lap as he got out of the car, he had Miya’s blanket and a black backpack in his car and the family caught him in several lies regarding his encounters with Miya,” Washington’s law firm said in a news release.
“The recently released video shows the deputy politely allowing Caballero to get in his car and leave,” it said.
Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for more information Thursday.
Mina offered his sympathy to Marcano’s family and said Wednesday that his office would look into the initial work to make sure deputies “did the best possible case that we could.”
“Again, the person responsible for the death of Miya is Armando Caballero,” Mina said. “And unfortunately, you know, she was dead before we ever received that call. But I do understand the family’s concerns, and so we’ll be looking into all that.”
Doha Madani is a breaking news reporter for NBC News. Pronouns: she/her.