During Miya Marcano's senior year at Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, she and her English teacher, Kristy Modia, had one of their many casual, off-the-cuff chats about the future, as teenagers looking forward to the next stage in their life are apt to do. But when Modia heard of her former student's disappearance and then of the 19-year-old's murder
two weeks ago, she says it's now an interaction she'll never forget.
Modia tells New Times
she'd joked to Marcano that she was bound to be a heartbreaker one day, which made Marcano laugh.
"You know, Mrs. Mo, I'm not really thinking about boys right now. I'm all about my future," Modia recalls her smiling student telling her. "I want to make my family proud. I want to make myself proud."
Modia speaks of Marcano's striking green eyes and beauty but adds that the young woman had a "solid head on her shoulders" and was always the first student in class to offer help to anyone struggling with their classwork.
"That's just who she was," Modia says. "She was all about being there for other people."
Though she was living in Orlando at the time of her death, Miya Marcano grew up in South Florida. She was registered to vote in Cooper City, attended Flanagan High, graduated in 2020, and moved to Orlando to attend Valencia College. When news came of her death, classmates and Flanagan graduates took to the Charles W. Flanagan High School Alumni Association page to mourn a fellow Falcon. "Her accomplishments and loving spirit will not be forgotten. Once a falcon, always a falcon," the association wrote in a post accompanied by a photo of a grinning Marcano
clad in an emerald graduation cap and gown.
"It’s like we were in middle school yesterday. It’s like I saw your smile in the halls yesterday. I can't even fathom this. Is this real life? Miya, I’m so sorry. Long live you," a former classmate commented.
"I read about her, living here in the Orlando area, and was not aware that she was a Falcon too. So sad. What a beautiful lady," another Flanagan alum wrote.
Added another: "This breaks my heart into pieces."
Modia says Marcano had a close relationship with her family and spoke about them as if they "walked on water." When the sophomore vanished from her apartment near the University of Central Florida roughly two weeks ago and missed her return flight home to Fort Lauderdale, her relatives drove up to Orlando that night. They spent days desperately searching for her — even sleeping in their car at her apartment complex as they awaited news.
"I just can't stop thinking about that connection that [her family has] with her," Modia says. "And that connection being lost."
Marcano's family members have expressed devastation over Marcano's passing in a series of Instagram posts this past week, including photos of her smiling in a graduation cap alongside her grandparents and another of posing on the beach with her dark hair blowing in the wind.
When Marcano first went missing, her father began posting near-daily images of her on his Instagram, expressing his heartache and, at times, anger. Many of the posts end with the same hashtag: #DaddyDaughter.
A post from Tuesday of this week
depicts a smiling selfie of Marcano in a car showing, off a flawless manicure.
"I keep hearing your voice in my head. I'm left here with more questions than answers. Why did it have to end this way? You did nothing to deserve this," the post reads. "You are my forever Princess MIYA and I LOVE YOU always."
Miya Marcano, a 19-year-old college student from Pembroke Pines, was found dead on Saturday, October 2, after an eight-day search.
Photo courtesy of Orange County Sheriff's Office
Marcano was last seen on Friday, September 24, after clocking out of her shift at the leasing office of the Arden Villas Luxury Apartments, where she also lived. Three days later, Armando Manuel Caballero – whom police had deemed a person of interest – was found dead from an apparent suicide. The 27-year-old was a maintenance worker at Marcano's apartment complex and had "inappropriately accessed"
her apartment with a master key just minutes before she was last seen, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Caballero had reportedly expressed a romantic interest
in Marcano but she had repeatedly rejected him.
After an eight-day search, police discovered Marcano's body
Saturday morning in a wooded area near Tymber Skan apartments in Orlando.
At first, Modia couldn't believe the news of her student's disappearance and reached out to former students to confirm that it was true. Once the horrific details emerged, Modia says, her anger nearly surpassed her grief.
"We've got this 19-year-old beautiful girl who is missing in the hands of somebody who had no business. You know, no is no — that's what I kept thinking to myself," she says. "Why don't people understand this? You had no right to touch this girl."
According to USA Today
, Marcano's family hopes to create a foundation
that advocates for legal changes in the hiring process of employees who have access to people's homes.
While no plans have been established yet, Modia says Flanagan High's principal and others have been exploring the idea of creating a memorial or scholarship in Marcano's honor.
"She was loved by so many people," Modia says.