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Florida grand jury indicts 4 suspects for 1st degree murder in brutal machete slaying

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 Miami grand jury has indicted five Jobs Corp students on first degree murder charges for allegedly hacking to death their 17-year old classmate with a machete.

Kaheem Arbelo, 20, Jonathan Lucas, 18, Christian Colón, 19 and Desiray Strickland, 18, could all face the death penalty if convicted in the death of José Amaya Guardado. The four – all students at the Homestead Job Corps, a live-in school and vocational training program for at-risk students run by the U.S. Department of Labor – are accused of planning the murder of Amaya Guardado over the course of two weeks, including digging his grave beforehand, according to videotaped confessions.

Arbelo, the alleged ringleader, pleaded not guilty in state court before to the indictment. A trial is set for Oct 19.

The arrest report accuses the four of luring Amaya Guardado to a wooded area near the school. That's where he was hacked to death with a machete and left in a shallow grave that the suspects had dug in advance, police said.

Amaya Guardado was ordered to lie in the shallow grave after the initial attack, but he made one last attempt to fight off his assailants. That's when police say Arbelo struck Amaya Guardado several more times with the machete until his face caved in. 

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The suspects then pushed Amaya Guardado back into the grave and buried him, according to the report. Arbelo and Strickland stayed behind after the killing to have sex, it added.

The suspects cleaned up the scene, burned the victim's belonging and their own clothes and got rid of the weapon, authorities said.

Family members began searching for Amaya Guardado after he went missing June 28. His brother discovered his body a few days later.

Amaya Guardado's father, Santos Amaya, said his son began attending the school months before his death. Amaya said his son — the youngest of six siblings — wanted to learn how to be a mechanic, but the family didn't know the school took in students with criminal records.

He said his son was roommates with Arbelo. Police haven't disclosed any possible motive in the death.

Amaya Guardado's parents said he was a quiet boy who kept to himself for the most part. They believe the suspects had been bullying the younger, bespectacled boy and taking money from him.

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