Lawsuit rakes deputy over coals for allegedly failing to look into Miya Marcano’s disappearance



Miya Marcano appears in images provided by law enforcement

Miya Marcano (Images: Orange County Sheriff’s Office)

The family of murdered woman Miya Marcano is suing the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and has singled out a deputy and his supervisor who allegedly failed to treat the 19-year-old’s disappearance with the proper weight in spite of available, disturbing evidence that someone attacked and kidnapped her.

“Plaintiffs allege that OCSO had a duty, but failed to implement policies, practices and procedures that respected Miya Marcano’s constitutional rights to assistance, protection, medical treatment, and equal treatment under the law,” they wrote in a lawsuit filed on Monday, the two-year anniversary of when authorities started to search in earnest. “Defendant OCSO’s failure to implement the necessary policies and the implementation of unconstitutional policies deprived Miya Marcano of equal protection and due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and caused her unwarranted and excruciating physical and mental anguish and death.”

As previously reported by Law&Crime, authorities said that Marcano got off work at the Arden Villas Luxury Apartments on the afternoon of Sept. 24, 2021. She also lived there and entered her apartment. But maintenance man Armando Manuel Caballero, 27, had snuck into her residence just minutes before by using a master key fob. He had been pursuing her romantically and would not take no for an answer, Orange County Sheriff John Mina has said.

Caballero kidnapped her from the apartment. Marcano’s family realized something was wrong when she missed a flight that night to Miami.

According to the lawsuit, relatives repeatedly called the sheriff’s office for help. Deputy Samir Paulino, a co-defendant in the lawsuit, showed up at Marcano’s apartment several times across those early hours into the early morning of Sept. 25, 2021, plaintiffs said. Marcano’s roommate arrived home during the first such visit and let him inside, and it was immediately clear that something was wrong when it turned out that Marcano’s bedroom door was locked and her window was unlocked, according to the lawsuit.

“Miya’s roommate immediately made Deputy Paulino aware that there were several signs that made it obvious something was wrong,” the documents stated. “Despite there being a blood stain on one of Miya’s pillow cases, a bookshelf propped up against the door, preventing entry into Miya’s bedroom, several pieces of broken jewelry and a boxcutter on the floor, an opened bedroom window, Miya’s favorite Teddy Bear left behind and a bedroom that was in a state of disarray, Deputy Paulino failed to treat the matter as a crime scene despite the obvious warning signs.”

He instead allegedly wrote an incident report and left to respond to other calls for service.

“Deputy Paulino did not inform anyone about the evidence of a potential crime he observed inside of Miya’s apartment,” the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit characterizes his approach through that night as dismissive. For example, when he was called back to the apartment complex about two hours later, he allegedly blew off a security guard who made clear there was a serious problem.

“Mr. Coleman [the security guard] also advised Deputy Paulino that he had lifted fingerprints from the scene using tape and attempted to provide the evidence to Paulino but Deputy Paulino, with a smirk on his face, told Mr. Coleman to keep the evidence in case it would be needed later,” the lawsuit stated. “Deputy Paulino also made it clear to Mr. Coleman that Miya’s case was not a priority. Deputy Paulino failed to document the call for service and did not document that Mr. Coleman lifted fingerprints and attempted to provide the evidence to law enforcement. This extremely critical information could have led to the discovery of Miya much sooner.”

As previously reported, law enforcement had encountered Caballero several times before maintenance workers at the Sabal Club Apartments in neighboring Seminole County found him dead on Sept. 27, 2021, in an apparent suicide by hanging. One of those times was early Sept. 25, 2021.

According to the complaint, Miya’s father, Marlon Marcano Sr, and family members arrived at the apartment complex and immediately knew something bad happened to her.

They spoke to Armando Caballero, who showed up to the scene.

“Based on conflicting statements and visible injuries to Caballero’s face and hand, Mr. Marcano knew Caballero was hiding something,” the complaint said.

At 3:52 a.m. on Sept. 25, Marcano’s father called the sheriff’s office asking them to do a proper investigation into his daughter’s disappearance. Paulino allegedly arrived just over an hour later, at 4:54 a.m.

Paulino allegedly failed to consider any of the evidence the family was giving him and did not contact other law enforcement for help.

“Mr. Coleman, after speaking with Marco Marcano, told Deputy Paulino about a screwdriver, a cellular telephone case on the floor and a blanket in the backseat of Caballero’s vehicle, but Paulino’s response was ‘thank you’ and he returned to questioning Caballero,” they wrote.

Deputy Paulino never asked permission to search Caballero’s vehicle and failed to question Caballero about any of the claims against him, the lawsuit alleges.

Marcano Sr. got so frustrated with the deputy that he made a complaint to the sheriff’s office about his lack of urgency.

Though Paulino allegedly told his supervisor, Corporal Kenneth Dale, on the phone about what he learned, neither lawman relayed that “extremely critical information” to anyone before wrapping up their shifts. It was only later that day, after another deputy showed up at the behest of the missing woman’s aunt, that the sheriff’s office began looking earnestly into the case, the lawsuit stated.

More Law&Crime coverage: Police officer sues sheriff’s deputy over attack by K-9 named Thor during suspect chase

All told, the lawsuit argues that Paulino, Dale, and the sheriff’s office already had enough evidence to possibly save Marcano’s life, or at least find her sooner.

According to the lawsuit, an administrative investigation by the sheriff’s office Professional Standards Section determined that Paulino and Dale violated written directives during the investigation. For example, Paulino falsely told Marcano’s father that there was nothing else the sheriff’s office could do and to wait 24 hours before the case would be escalated to the next level, the complaint stated.

“There is no OCSO Sheriff’s Office policy which states there is a requirement for twenty-four hours to pass before a missing person investigation would be escalated,” they wrote.

It is unclear how Caballero murdered Marcano. The autopsy noted that her body was severely decomposed by the time authorities found it.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office declined to discuss the case on Tuesday, saying they do not comment on pending litigation.


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