Published: Thu, December 06, 2018

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

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

A security guard at a Costa Rica Airbnb rental villa was arrested in the death of a Florida woman who was remembered by friends as an avid world traveler and "happy soul", authorities said Wednesday.

The body of Carla Stefaniak, a United States citizen reported missing while on vacation in Costa Rica, has been found, her family confirmed, as authorities announced a suspect is in custody in the case.

On Tuesday, a family friend, Bugra Demirel, told the BBC they had waited outside the morgue to identify her body.

Burga told the BBC: "It's a frightful wait, and every single minute that Costa Rican officials are not showing the body is just a tremendous amount of pain on the family". Investigators said Martinez was taken into custody because he made contradictory statements to investigators, CBS News reported.

In addition, fluids found in the apartment where Stefaniak was staying have the consistency of blood, OIJ officials said.

Costa Rican authorities announced on Tuesday that police dogs had discovered a body buried 200 feet toward the back of the property where Stefaniak had been staying, in a hilly and wooded suburb of San Jose. The suspect is a Nicaraguan national who has been in Costa Rica since June.

According to its listing on TripAdvisor, the Villa le Mas is a compound with seven vacation apartments.

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.

Stefaniak and Burton had been texting each other via WhatsApp, Burton said.

Her last Instagram photo was on November 25. But Burton had needed to leave a day early, and Stefaniak had spent her last night in Costa Rica alone.


Espinoza Martinez had been staying in the apartment next to Stefaniak's rental, the spokesman said. But her flight was scheduled for 1 p.m., and she was only 20 or 30 minutes from the airport.

April Burton, her sister-in-law, told CNN the two had gone to Costa Rica to celebrate Stefaniak's birthday and had traveled together for six days, staying in beach towns outside San Jose.

"We will make sure this case is not closed like many others in Costa Rica", said a post on a Facebook page that has been updated by a family friend.

Stefaniak then had a FaceTime exchange with another friend and said she was going to ask a security guard at the Airbnb to get her a bottled water, according to the family.

"Words can not express the devastation within her family and friends", her relatives said in a statement. But then he changed his story, and investigators scrutinized those details, according to Costa Rican media. Her father caught a flight from Tampa International Airport on Monday.

Stefaniak's body was found Monday, partly nude and covered with plastic bags near the villa she had rented.

The Tampa Bay Times reports an autopsy found stab wounds on her arms and neck, and the cause of death was determined to be a blow to the head.

'We will never forget the joy she brought into our lives, how much she made us laugh. "We are not", her family wrote on Facebook.

"I want people to know these things happen", he said.

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