THE apartment complex where Miya Marcano lived, worked, and vanished from is "dark and seedy" and maintenance workers would often enter occupants' homes without their permission, angry residents claim.
Miya, 19, was found dead in a wooded area in Orlando, Florida on Saturday with her hands and feet bound and tape covering her mouth.
The tragic discovery was made eight days after she was last seen alive leaving work at the Arden Villas apartment complex at 5pm on September 24, where she also lived.
Investigators with the Orange County Sheriff's Department suspect the teen was killed by a maintenance worker at the complex, 27-year-old Armando Caballero, who allegedly used a master key fob to access her home 30 minutes before her shift ended.
He was found dead from an apparent suicide just days after Miya was first reported missing.
'LIVING IN TERROR'
Residents at the Arden Villas complex, who are mainly made up of young students, now say they're living in terror and claim that Miya's death could've been prevented if management had taken alleged prior resident concerns more seriously when alarms were first raised.
Two such residents, University of Central Florida students Julia Veiga and Eryn Rutherford, are leading a charge against Arden Villas, threatening legal action if they fail to substantially overhaul security at the complex.
Speaking to The Sun, Veiga said: "This is a community that's advertised to college students as a safe place to live, but as we've found it that's not the case.
"In fact, it's blatantly obvious. If you had the chance to walk around our apartment complex at night it's dark and it's seedy.
"Changes are so desperately needed. As Miya's case has sadly shown, the changes really could be a matter of life and death for other residents – and we need to make sure nothing like this ever happens again."
Veiga and Rutherford have launched a Change.org petition, which claims Arden Villas is "responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Miya Marcano."
The petition, which has so far amassed nearly 35,000 signatures, also contains a list of demands and they say, if they don't receive a response to them by Friday, they will be filing a class-action lawsuit.
The group also wants the option to break their leases because they are "angry and scared" and believe they shouldn't be forced to live at the complex any longer, Veiga says.
"For years, residents have reported inappropriate behavior of the maintenance men that enter their apartments," the petition reads.
"Their reviews are littered with evidence of [this]. Yet they did nothing, and now Miya is dead."
Arden Villas has not directly addressed the claims made as part of the petition.
In a statement posted to Instagram on Wednesday, the company said it had received "several complaints" and acknowledged the petition, adding that it will be responding to the concerns in "a more expansive manner in the coming days."
Still, the petition accuses Arden Villas of "gross negligence and utter disrespect" over a series of "years."
"We are a community of college kids," it reads. "Miya Marcano was only 19. Since Miya first went missing, Arden Villas has done little to reassure us of our safety."
Veiga told The Sun that she and a group of other residents, known collectively as MakeArdenSafe, have been compiling complaints made about Caballero and other maintenance workers at the complex that were voiced in the months leading up to Miya's death.
"We've been receiving complaints from residents past and present about the maintenance team and general security at Arden Villas," she said.
"As more accounts of similar things keep coming in we've noticed that clearly, this is not a new thing for this company."
Some of the complaints, Veiga said, include claims that maintenance workers would enter residents' homes with our prior warning to carry out repairs.
In one case, a woman claimed that she had been in bed when she received a knock at her bedroom door.
When she opened it, it was the maintenance man whom she had no idea was inside her apartment to begin with, Veiga said.
"It's even happened to me," she said. "I only just moved in in August but I requested a few [maintenance] things when I first moved in and I would come home and they'd just be fixed. No warning, no notification – nothing."
Veiga said that Arden has since changed the way in which maintenance requests are handled in the wake of Miya's death.
Previously, to request maintenance assistance, Veiga said a resident would just go onto the website and report what was wrong and it would be taken care of.
Now, residents have to book a specific timeslot and confirm whether they'll be home or not. If they aren't going to be home, they have to give them authorization to enter.
The building then makes a temporary key for the maintenance worker to use to get into the apartment, rather than a master fob like the one allegedly used by Caballero to secretly enter Miya's apartment
"What I want to know is why this wasn't implemented in the first place," Veiga said. "Why were the workers just given master key fobs to enter as they please?"
In their list of demands, the group is asking to be allowed to end a lease without incurring an early termination fee, mounting more surveillance cameras and lighting, and having a security officer posted at the front gate 24/7.
Following Miya's disappearance, Arden Villas owner, The Preiss Company, announced a guard will be posted at the front gate.
However, WESH 2 reported that there was no guard at the complex on Wednesday and the gate remained wide open.
"There's already inconsistencies with their ability to maintain a guard at the gate," Veiga said, "so we're asking for that we're asking for increased lighting and cameras throughout the whole complex.
"There's some dark wooded areas and car parks around the complex so we want to make those areas safer. Because at the end of the day, that's how Miya was abducted out of her apartment – she was taken through one of those dark parking lots that don't have any cameras or lights.
"I think had these proper security measures been in place when Miya vanished it would've taken much less time to find out what had happened to her and who was responsible for it."
Veiga and the other residents have the full support of the Marcano family, their attorney Daryl K. Washington has said.
Speaking to The Sun, Washington said the family is currently compiling their own negligence case against Arden Villas and called Miya's death "totally preventable."
"The family wishes that Arden Villas … would've taken the proper steps to ensure Miya’s safety and all others at the apartment complex.
"This is a loss of life that could have easily been prevented. I think you have young ladies all across the county going to sleep at night in fear, knowing that there are apartment complexes giving predators free access to their apartments."
Veiga said the group has not yet received a direct response from Arden Villas, following the launch of their petition.
Arden Villas did post an initial response on its Instagram page on Wednesday, but residents maintain they did not receive it directly.
"We join with all of you who have expressed sadness, loss, and pain due to the untimely passing of Miya Marcano. Miya was a valued employee and member of the Arden Villas community," the statement began. "Words cannot express the outrage and heartbreak we feel at this moment.
"A number of complaints and concerns have been voice by some residents regarding Arden Villas over the past several days, including a list of demands that was submitted on Saturday.
“We have received these complaints and concerns and intend to respond to them in a more expansive manner in the coming days.
“Please be aware it is our goal that every resident, guest, and staff member feels as safe and secure as possible," the company said.
COMPLEX UNDER FIRE
Arden Villas officials said last week that it had increased security and that all of its employees undergo a background check and training.
"After a thorough review of the ongoing reporting on the situation surrounding Ms. Marcano, we would like to provide the following factual updates," the statement began.
"Regarding our hiring process, all potential employees are vetted through a national background check services provider. Concerning Mr. Caballero specifically, no records of either burglary or sexual assault were found, and rumors to the contrary appear to be based on online documents referencing someone else with the same name.
"As part of the onboarding process, all new employees undergo thorough sexual harassment deterrence training, covering aspects from recognizing what qualifies as inappropriate to how to report unwanted behavior. We take all accusations very seriously but received none from any parties involved directly or indirectly with the situation.
"To ensure nothing like this happens again at Arden Villas, we are taking numerous, proactive steps to enhance our security protocols."
The company has been contacted by The Sun to provide comment on the allegations made by Veiga and Washington.
On Wednesday night, Veiga and a large group of other people gathered in protest outside of Arden Villas.
Participants carried signs that read "Justice 4 Miya" and "We have no lights, no cameras, no Miya."
Posters stating “Arden Villas is responsible” also now hang in front of multiple balconies in the complex.
MIYA'S LAST MOMENTS
Miya was last seen alive at around 5pm on September 24 as she left work in the Arden Villas leasing office and returned to her apartment.
She had been due to fly to Fort Lauderdale to visit her family that night but never boarded the plane.
A subsequent search of her apartment showed signs of a violent struggle: the door to her bedroom was barricaded, the room was in a state of disarray and there was a bloodstain on Miya's pillow.
According to police, Caballero had repeatedly expressed "romantic interest" in Miya prior to her disappearance – unwanted advances that were routinely rebuffed by the teen.
Her remains were found at a different apartment complex in Seminole County on Saturday.
A cause of death has not yet been revealed.
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