Police suspect sexual motive behind Florida woman's killing in Costa Rica

Remigio Civitarese
Dicembre 6, 2018

He is believed to have lived in Costa Rica since June.

Family members said they identified a body found buried behind an Airbnb in Central America as Carla Stefaniak, a Miami woman who vanished while celebrating her 36th birthday there.

Stefaniak's tearful dad Carlos confirmed late Tuesday that the body found was that of his daughter. "It's now official", they wrote in the update.

"Words can not express the devastation within her family and friends", said the announcement on "Finding Carla", a Facebook page where relatives have shared updates since her disappearance.

"In the following days, we will release critical digital leads of the investigation, continue asking questions about the involvement of others in Carla's murder", said the statement posted to Facebook.

On Wednesday, her family worked to bring her body home so they could make funeral arrangements. Here's what we know so far about what happened.

Authorities said Martinez was staying in a room next to Stefaniak and that the information he gave to police "demonstrated a lot of inconsistency".

Costa Rican justice official Michael Soto told reporters at the time that the rate of 12.1 murders per 100,000 inhabitants was the highest in the country's history, with about a quarter of the deaths designated as drug related.

The trip to Costa Rica was meant to be a weeklong celebration of Stefaniak's birthday. It's not known if he has a lawyer or if he has entered any plea.

Family Identifies Body Found in Costa Rica as Missing Florida Woman Carla Stefaniak
Florida woman who failed to return home after her Costa Rican birthday trip is confirmed dead

On Tuesday Costa Rican officials arrested 32-year-old Bismark Espinosa Martinez, a guard at the Villa Buena Vista resort near San Jose, Costa Rica.

Burton said Stefaniak sent an alarming message to a friend the night before she was reported missing, saying, "It's pretty sketchy here".

After Stefaniak failed to board her November 28 flight to Florida, the family discovered a troubling detail: she had checked in for her flight on the 26th.

Relatives raised the alarm last week, after Stefaniak stopped texting and phoning home and was not on her return flight from Costa Rica. Her worst fears were confirmed when a gate agent told her that Stefaniak hadn't boarded the plane. "I do feel guilty because I left early", Burton told Fox13 News.

Stefaniak reserved an Airbnb about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the airport in San Jose for her final night in the country.

Demirel said she texted a friend that it was "raining crazy" and the power was out. "Everything is gone. She left with everything on hand".

"'I'm just gonna go ask the guards to buy me a bottle of water.' He says that her phone died, and that's it", Burton recalled, adding: "That's the last we heard from her".

An Uber driver who took Stefaniak sightseeing on the Tuesday and who was supposed to pick her up to go to the airport told the family he heard she left the rental home around 5am with her luggage and got into a mysterious auto, according to the Miami Herald.

The Facebook page, set up to search for the missing tourist who was believed to have been kidnapped, also revealed it would not stop posting and following up on the story, which has garnered global attention.

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