Authorities in Costa Rica believe that the female body found Monday is that of Carla Stefaniak, the missing Florida woman who was vacationing in the area for her birthday.
“All the data we’ve compiled points to this being her,” General Director of Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Department Walter Espinoza said, WSVN News 7 reported.
While officials are certain of their identification, they are still waiting to compare fingerprints and possibly dental and DNA records.
“We want a determination that is more precise, more technical and more scientific,” Espinoza added, News 7 reported.
An autopsy revealed that Stefaniak, 36, died as a result of head injuries. She also suffered multiple stab wounds on her neck, ABC Action News reported. Her death is now being investigated as a homicide.
A security guard working the property surrounding the Airbnb where Stefaniak was saying, and where her body was found, has been detained.
Espinoza explained, according to News 7, that 32-year-old Bismarck Espinosa Martinez became a suspect after allegedly contradicting his story regarding Stefaniak’s whereabouts to police. He was taken into custody around 11 p.m. Monday night.
“The person detained for the homicide was near her, had chances to commit the act and became a suspect through all our investigation,” Espinoza explained, according to the news station. Espinoza also alleged that Martinez has been living in Costa Rica for the past several years illegally.
The news station also reported that Martinez is being held on a preventive sentence in Costa Rica and will spend the next few months in prison.
There are no details at this time as to whether or not Martinez has a lawyer or has entered a plea.
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Stefaniak’s body was found outside the vacation rental in San José. Espinoza previously explained in a news conference, which was translated from Spanish, according to The Miami Herald, that Stefaniak’s body was wrapped in plastic, buried in the back of the property.
Authorities couldn’t immediately make an ID as her body was badly decomposed, Espinoza said.
Espinoza also said in the press conference that blood was discovered inside the rental and has since been transported to a lab for testing, ABC Action News reported.
Stefaniak, who was traveling with her sister-in-law April Burton, was last seen on Nov. 27, just one day before her birthday.
Stefaniak, from Tampa, was expected to return home to Hallandale Beach on Wednesday, but her family grew worried after she didn’t make it back. While the birthday girl checked into her flight she never got on the plane.
Prior to her disappearance, Stefaniak taken Burton, who had to cut her time in Costa Rica short due to an obligation back home, to the airport, according to Fox 13 Tampa Bay.
“It was her birthday, and it makes me feel really bad. I do feel guilty because I left early,” Burton told the outlet.
After being dropped off, Burton says she and her sister-in-law texted until late in the night.
She explained on Facebook that after the airport, Stefaniak returned her rental car and took an Uber back to her Airbnb.
“The Uber driver waited for her for approximately 50 minutes before taking her for tour around San Jose. She arrived back to her Airbnb between 4 and 5 tour around San Jose,” Stefaniak wrote. “Last time we heard from her was on 11/27 around 8 p.m. when she said it was raining crazy and the power went out.”
Burton also said that Stefaniak texted her and said the Airbnb was “pretty sketchy.” She’s also had no online or social media presence since that night and hasn’t responded to any of her friend’s birthday wishes, leaving her family to believe she was kidnapped.
Stefaniak also allegedly FaceTimed a friend, explaining she was going to ask one of the guards to buy her a bottle of water, WSVN News 7 reported. After that, the friend claims her phone died.
It is not clear at this time if the guard she asked was Martinez.
In hopes of finding answers, Stefaniak’s brother Carlos Caicedo has traveled to Costa Rica where he visited the Airbnb.
“She went there the night before and left at 5 a.m.,” Caicedo told WFLA-TV, explaining what he claims the guards of the property told him.
“Everything is gone. She left with everything on hand,” Caicedo added.
According to Fox 13, the owner of the Airbnb also told the family that Stefaniak was seen getting into an Uber with her luggage early Wednesday morning.
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However, given that her flight wasn’t until 1 p.m. Stefaniak’s family finds it hard to believe that she was heading to the airport that early.
“None of us really believe this 5 a.m. story because it really doesn’t make sense,” Burton told Fox 13.
Following the news of the body’s identification, Stefaniak’s father also traveled to Costa Rica.
“You can’t imagine what we are feeling,” Carlos Caicedo Sr. told News 7. “Her mom is absolutely devasted. She can’t speak.”
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