The woman believed to have goaded on the machete murder of a teen in Homestead will spend 15 years in prison for her role in the gruesome killing.
Desiray Strickland, 25, pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiracy to commit the murder of Jose Amaya Guardado, who was hacked to death with a machete and found buried in a shallow grave in the woods in 2015. After the prison term, she’ll also have to serve six months of house arrest and 10 years of probation.
As part of the plea deal, she agreed to testify, if called, against her former boyfriend, Kaheem Arbelo, who is accused of inflicting the fatal blows on Jose. He is awaiting trial and faces the death penalty if convicted.
“It was the right thing to do for Desiray,” said her defense attorney, Scott Sakin. “She felt very badly for the family of Mr. Amaya. She felt bad for what happened. She decided this was best to move on with her life.”
The murder involved a group of students from Homestead Job Corps, the live-in school for at-risk students. The shocking murder raised concerns about oversight and security at Job Corps, which operates over 100 campuses across the country designed to help at-risk people between the ages of 16 and 24 earn their high-school degrees and learn vocational skills.
Arbelo, Strickland and three others were arrested in 2015 for planning and carrying out the murder, which is believed to have stemmed from a debt owed to Arbelo. Witnesses told police that Strickland, then 19, “complained that she had missed the first series of machete strikes because she had walked away for a few minutes to urinate in the woods,” according to her arrest report.
She was not accused of striking any of the blows. Strickland and Arbelo allegedly had sex in the woods after the group of Job Corps students buried the teen’s body.
Fellow students Jonathan Lucas, Christian Colon and Joseph Michael Cabrera were also charged in Jose’s death. Arbelo, Lucas and Colon all confessed — in video-recorded statements — when they were detained in August 2015, according to Miami-Dade police.
In 2020, Lucas and Cabrera pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit murder. Lucas was sentenced to five years in prison and 15 years’ probation. Cabrera received less punishment.
Besides Arbelo, Colon is the only other defendant awaiting trial. He faces life in prison if convicted.