A Florida woman who vanished while celebrating her 36th birthday in Central America sent an alarming message to a friend before she disappeared.
Carla Stefaniak of Miami was last seen while on vacation in San José, Costa Rica. Her sister-in-law, April Burton, accompanied her on the trip 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 morning but never made her flight, authorities said.
According to family members, Stefaniak hired an Uber driver the day Burton left and requested a tour of San José, the densely populated capital. Stefaniak then texted a relative that night and said she was back at her Airbnb in San Antonio de Escazú, a suburb of the city.
“Around 8 p.m. ... she said it was raining crazy and [the] power went out,” Burton wrote in a post on Facebook. “She continued with, ‘It’s pretty sketchy here.’”
Family members said the owner of the Airbnb told them a guard reported seeing Stefaniak get into a car with her bags at about 5 a.m. on Nov. 28. It’s unclear if authorities have verified that information.
Burton told Tampa’s Fox 13 News it seems odd Stefaniak would have left her accommodations early in the morning, since her flight was not scheduled to depart until 1:30 p.m.
“None of us really believe this 5 a.m. story because it really doesn’t make sense,” Burton said. “We know she was abducted. There’s no reason for her not to contact anyone.”
Stefaniak’s brother, Mario Caicedio, flew to Costa Rica to search for his sister. His family has started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover expenses. As of Monday, more than $9,000 has been raised.
According to a recent Facebook post, one of the family’s priorities is to “push the State Department to start treating this case seriously and [get a] court order [for] her phone/bank records.”
Federal authorities said they were notified on Nov. 28 that Stefaniak was missing.
“The U.S. Department of State and our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater responsibility than the protection of U.S. citizens overseas,” a department official told First Coast News. “When a U.S. citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment.”
The Miami Herald reported that Stefaniak immigrated to the United States from Venezuela in 2000 and works for a Miami insurance agency.
Burton told First Coast News her sister-in-law is “really friendly, extroverted [and] has a ton of friends.”
No physical descriptions of Stefaniak, such as her height or weight, have been made available, and authorities have not provided details of the clothing she was wearing when she was last seen.
“We are all destroyed. We are trying to be strong,” Caicedio told Fox 13 News.
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.