Security guard detained in murder of Florida woman at Costa Rican property

Elias Hubbard
December 6, 2018

The woman had traveled to Costa Rica to celebrate her 36th birthday, according to relatives.

The father and brother of Carla Stefaniak identified the body as the 36-year-old Tuesday night. Stefaniak, who stayed behind to enjoy an extra night, was scheduled to fly home the following day but never made her flight, authorities said.

"It's too much for us", her father, Carlos Stefaniak, told ABC Action News in Tampa from Costa Rica.

"May God bless her soul".

Almost a week had passed since Stefaniak's relatives and friends in Florida embarked on an worldwide search after she failed to return from her birthday celebration in Costa Rica.

Officials later found a partially buried body in woods near the Villa le Mas complex and identified it using fingerprints, the country's Judicial Investigation Department said.

Meanwhile, the lawyer representing the complex that houses the Airbnb told WFTS they were "deeply saddened and devastated by the tragic events that occurred last week" and said that the owners were cooperating with authorities. The Judicial Investigation Department said Bismarck Espinosa Martinez, who worked as a security guard on the property, was taken into custody, according to NBC News.

Airbnb said it has removed the vacation rental listing where Stefaniak stayed.

Martinez, a Nicaraguan security guard, reportedly told investigators that he last saw Stefaniak at the Airbnb where he works on November 28. - getting into an Uber with her luggage early that morning.

Espinoza Martinez was arrested Monday and is in jail because he is a flight risk, the spokesman said.

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"The person linked to this homicide was close to her and had the time and place to commit this crime", said government spokesman Walter Espinoza.

Family friend, Greg Zwolinsky, who is with them in Costa Rica, said he wants everyone to remember Stefaniak based on the radiance of her personality that is portrayed in pictures of her smiling.

The family later learned there were no records in Stefaniak's Uber account from that day, Fernandez said.

An autopsy found stab wounds on her arms and neck, while the cause of death was determined to be a blow to the head.

"In her apartment, we found blood".

Stefaniak went on the trip to Costa Rica to celebrate her birthday with her sister-in-law, April Burton. "She went there the night before and left at 5 a.m.", said Caicedo.

A lawyer for the complex where the Airbnb was located said witnesses saw Stefaniak get into a mystery vehicle at 5am on the Wednesday morning but family were quick to dismiss the witness account, saying the 36-year-old's flight was not till 1pm and she would not have left at that hour for the airport, located only half an hour away. When she never exited her scheduled flight Wednesday, her family began worrying. "It's pretty sketchy here", Stefaniak had written, saying that it was raining heavily and the power had gone out. Then, the messages stopped. "We know she was abducted".

It's understood the U.S. tourist had been FaceTiming with an unnamed male friend when her phone went dead at 9pm.

Espinoza Martinez had been staying in the apartment next to Stefaniak's rental, the spokesman said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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