Monday, 20 May, 2019

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

The murder of a US tourist has dealt a fresh blow to Costa Rica's image as a tourist destination The murder of a US tourist has dealt a fresh blow to Costa Rica's image as a tourist destinationMore
Steven Clarke | 08 December, 2018, 08:43

The family of Carla Stefaniak, a Florida woman who went missing in Costa Rica last week, said they identified her body after officials confirmed her death.

Carla Stefaniak of Hallandale Beach, Florida, went to the Central American country to celebrate her 36th birthday but never boarded her November 28 return flight after messaging friends that it was "pretty sketchy" at her resort.

"I'm really sorry for her family and it's just a really sad thing", Rivelli said.

Walter Espinoza, a spokesman with the country's Judicial Investigation Department, confirmed the details in media reports.

Stefaniak's family is of humble means and they have set up a Gofundme page to help with their expenses.

Investigators say they found a large amount of blood in the room of the Airbnb where Stephaniak was staying.

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 man arrested for the killing had worked at the apartment complex, the station said.

Martinez is reportedly from Nicaragua and had been in the country since June, according to authorities.

Airbnb removed Villa le Mas - a compound with seven vacation apartments - from its site and said Wednesday that it had reached out to family members to offer condolences.

An Airbnb representative said the company is cooperating with local authorities in Costa Rica. She loved to travel, enthusiastically documenting trips to Cuba, Mexico, Iceland and Switzerland on Instagram.

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A lawyer for the complex where the Airbnb was located said witnesses saw Stefaniak get into a mystery auto 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. "I do feel guilty because I left early", Burton told Fox13 News.

After Stefaniak was reported missing, agents began to investigate where she was last seen. It featured her in a turquoise bathing suit, lying near a pool with tropical plants in the background. She Facetimed a friend in NY, telling him she was going to ask the security guard to buy her a bottle of water.

"Since 2013, Villa Le Mas has operated a small vacation rental facility located at San Antonio, Escazu, Costa Rica".

Stefaniak's family also said they are not done fighting for her, saying they plan to continue to press authorities to look into the possible involvement of more people in her death.

She had dropped Burton at the airport and returned their rental vehicle before taking a 30-minute Uber to an Airbnb that she had checked in to for her final night.

During an exclusive interview with WFTS, Stefaniak's father, Carlos, said his heart shattered when he saw her body. "We can not yet confirm that it is the body of Carla Stefaniak", Espinoza said, according to The Miami Herald.

Stefaniak did not show up for her return flight on November 27.

On Monday, a woman's decomposed body was found outside the Airbnb rental.

Authorities said Martinez had been staying next door to Stefaniak.

Her body was found by cadaver dogs on Monday partially buried in the ground and covered with plastic bags behind the apartment complex that housed her Airbnb.

An autopsy showed multiple stab wounds to the "neck and upper extremities", as well as blunt force trauma to the head, the spokesman said.

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