The bizarre twists and turns of a week-long search for a Doral woman and her young daughter have led police through wooded enclaves, over suburban lakes, into a warehouse and then to a Home Depot parking lot where the girl’s father stabbed himself — then lost an eye after police struck him with a Taser.
On Monday, police combed a forest near the Krome detention center and found nothing. On Tuesday, it was off to a wooded area behind Dolphin Mall at Northwest 12th Avenue and Florida’s Turnpike.
Both searches, so far, have proved fruitless. Still no sign of 43-year-old Liliana Moreno and her 9-year-old daughter Daniela Moreno, a student at John I. Smith K-8 Center in Doral.
“Nothing came of it,” said a Miami-Dade police spokeswoman, Detective Jennifer Capote. “They were out there, then they cleared.”
Through most of the search, police have considered Gustavo Castaño — who fathered the girl but claims to not have had a romantic relationship with her mother — as a serious person of interest. He is the last person to see Moreno and her daughter before their disappearance.
On Tuesday, Castaño’s attorney blasted the media and police for “villifying” Castaño.
“Every report going out said my client tried to hurt himself and that he’s the central figure in this investigation. But they conveniently left out the part where they shot him in the eyeball with a Taser,” said attorney Michael Grieco. “The self-inflicted wounds are not why he’s in the hospital. The cuts on his neck are superficial. He’s in the hospital because he lost his right eye.”
Police found a distraught Castaño in a truck at the Hialeah Gardens Home Depot on Friday. By the time they arrived he was stabbing himself in the throat. Police subdued him with a stun gun. One of the shots was errant. Castaño is recovering at Kendall Regional Medical Center.
Grieco said Castaño has been cooperative from the outset of the investigation.
“He gave up his phone, his car, let them search his house,” Grieco said. “He maintains his innocence.”
Castaño and Moreno were never married, nor did they live together, Grieco said.
“The relationship was purely professional and with both acting as co-parents,” Grieco said. “Both worked in similar industries and knew each other for years. There was no romantic relationship. I have not heard about any ongoing dispute between them and I’ve talked to his family members.”
Castaño, who works in the landscaping and contracting business, had lunch last week with Moreno and their daughter, Grieco said.
“At some point, he let them out of his car and he is the last person we know of who saw them,” said the attorney.
Police began searching for Moreno and Daniela on May 31 after Moreno’s sister called from Colombia saying she had not heard from them in several days. Daniela was not in school the previous Friday. A search at Moreno’s apartment at Northwest 107th Avenue and 50th Street turned up her purse and wallet. The front door was locked and her car was in the parking lot.
Police immediately suspected foul play. Some of Moreno’s family flew in and have helped in the search, which began at the Medley warehouse owned by Castaño and has now spread to wooded areas in Northwest Miami-Dade. Police have spoken with several people of interest, including Castaño, but have released no details.
Friends and relatives of the missing woman and her daughter planned a vigil on Tuesday night at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 11691 NW 25th St.