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Jobs Corps school closed after students charged in gruesome machete killing

Desiray Strickland, Kaheem Arbelo, Christian Colon and Jonathan Lucas. (Photos: Associated Press)

Desiray Strickland, Kaheem Arbelo, Christian Colon and Jonathan Lucas. (Photos: Associated Press)

A Job Corps facility in the city of Homestead, in southern Florida, has been temporarily shut after four of its students were arrested last week accused of killing a fellow student back in June.

The body of José Amaya Guardado, 17, was found in a shallow grave near the campus savagely hacked with a machete.

On Aug. 22, Miami-Dade police charged four of his classmates with second-degree murder – Kaheem Arbelo, 20; Jonathan Lucas, 18; Christian Colon, 19 and Desiray Strickland, 18. Detectives are expecting to make a fifth arrest.

Officials say the lack of supervision in the Homestead Job Corps is “incomprehensible” and the place should not continue operate under the same policies.

“The lack of supervision is incomprehensible, as is the lackadaisical manner in which the administration treated a missing student,” U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) told the Miami Herald in a statement, adding that the administrators of the Homestead center didn’t even communicate with Amaya Guardado’s family and didn’t help search for him.

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“I sincerely hope that there will be safeguards put in place so that students can at the very least feel safe on campus,” she said.

According to the Herald, classes at Homestead will be suspended until at least Sept. 9, as federal officials review campus security procedures. Seventeen students who remained there during the summer break were moved to other campuses, the paper said.

Job Corps, in existence since the early 1960s, is a free education and training program that helps young people learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED, and find and keep a job. It is aimed at young people at least 16 years of age that qualify as low income.

The Homestead campus also made headlines in 2006, when five students were taken into custody after being found inside a nearby abandoned warehouse that, according to authorities, had been turned into a gang member hangout. The Miami Herald reported then that detectives found paper targets, bullet casings and BBs on the ground, and a room that apparently was used for interrogations and beatings.

Amaya Guardado’s murder shocked South Florida for its apparent brutality.

According to the arrest report, Amaya Guardado was ordered to lie in the shallow grave after the initial attack, but he made one last attempt to fight off the assailants. That's when police say Arbelo struck him several more times with the machete until his face caved in. The suspects then pushed Amaya Guardado into the grave and buried him, the report stated.

Strickland and another suspect stayed behind after the killing to have sex, it added.

The school is located in a remote area of Miami-Dade County, with small roads leading into wooded areas.

Amaya Guardado's mother said she brought her son to the United States 9 years ago to escape the violence rampant in their native El Salvador. 

"I brought my son from there because they were killing people," Lucia Guardado said, in Spanish, at the family's south Miami-Dade home. "I never imagined they would do something like that to my son here."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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