A missing Florida woman’s family said their worst fears came true Tuesday night.
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.
“Costa Rican Authorities finally allowed the family of Carla to see the body,” reads a Wednesday morning message on the Finding Carla Facebook page. “Carla’s father confirmed that the body belongs to Carla. ... Words cannot express the devastation within her family and friends.”
The body was found Monday in a wooded area behind the Villa Le Mas Airbnb where Stefaniak was staying in San Antonio de Escazú, a suburb of San José.
Walter Espinoza, director of Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Department, held a news conference on Tuesday. He said the body was found half-buried and covered with plastic bags. He did not discuss a possible cause of death.
That same day, investigators arrested 32-year-old Bismarck Espinoza Martinez, a security guard at the villa where Stefaniak was staying, according to CBS News. Investigators said Martinez was taken into custody because he made contradictory statements to investigators, CBS News reported.
Stefaniak’s sister-in-law, April Burton, had accompanied her on vacation but left on Nov. 27 because of a prior commitment. Stefaniak, who stayed behind to enjoy an extra night, was scheduled to fly home the following day but never made her flight, authorities said.
Burton said Stefaniak sent an alarming message to a friend the night before she was reported missing, saying, “It’s pretty sketchy here.”
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. That was the last conversation she’s known to have had with anyone she knew.
The Miami Herald reported that Stefaniak immigrated to the United States from Venezuela in 2000 and worked for a Miami insurance agency.
Burton told First Coast News her sister-in-law was “really friendly, extroverted [and] has a ton of friends.”
The Finding Carla Facebook page was created by her family and has been used as a place to share information about her disappearance.
The remaining questions make the tragedy all the harder for her loved ones.
“Are we done here? We are not,” her family wrote on Facebook. “In the following days, we will release critical digital leads of the investigation, continue asking questions … and make sure this case is not closed.”
Anyone with information in the case is asked to contact the Judiciary Investigative Police in Costa Rica at 800-800-0645 or through WhatsApp at 8800-0645.