Body found in Costa Rica matches missing U.S. tourist Carla Stefaniak, officials say

Credit: Carla Stefaniak, CBS News
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By: CBS News
December 4, 2018

Authorities in Costa Rica said a body found near an Airbnb matches that of Carla Stefaniak, a U.S. tourist who went missing five days ago, CBS Miami reports. A local security guard was arrested and taken into custody in connection with her disappearance, officials said.

An autopsy completed Tuesday determined the body initially matches Stefaniak, but investigators still need to complete a final verification, said Walter Espinoza of the country's Judicial Investigation Department. He said the victim died of stab wounds to the neck and upper torso and suffered an additional blow to the head.

The security guard who was taken into custody Tuesday was identified as Bismarck Espinoza Martinez, 32, CBS Miami reported.

Authorities on Monday said they discovered the body near the area where Stefaniak was staying. They said the body was partially buried and inside plastic, near the city of San Jose.

Stefaniak, 36, was in Costa Rica celebrating her birthday. Family members said she missed her flight return flight home to Florida on Nov. 28. They received texts from her the night before around 8 p.m., but then all communication stopped.

Carlos Caicedo, Stefaniak's brother, said the owner of the Airbnb told him a security guard saw his sister get into a car with her bags at 5 a.m. the morning of her flight. Caicedo said something didn't add up because his sister's flight was scheduled for 1:30 later that day and she was "never early for anything." It's unclear if the security guard was the same person who was taken into custody Tuesday.

April Burton, her sister-in-law, spent the week in Costa Rica with Stefaniak. She left the day before her sister-in-law and told CBS News "it seemed so safe" when they were together.

Police recovered what appeared to be blood from the Airbnb, and said surveillance video did not align with the security guard's version of events, the Associated Press reported. Officials sealed off the apartment to protect evidence.

Airbnb said it has offered its support to Stefaniak's family as well as law enforcement.