Man arrested in death of United States tourist in Costa Rica

Carla Stefaniak

Carla Stefaniak

Costa Rican authorities say they found what appears to be blood in the Airbnb apartment rented by a missing South Florida woman who was on a vacation to celebrate her 36th birthday, and that prompted a search that led them to a still-unidentified body discovered outside.

The body, which was wrapped in plastic, was found Monday in a wooded area in the San Jose neighborhood of San Antonio de Escazu, near where 36-year-old Carla Stefaniak was last seen last week, according to CBS News.

The suspect, who has a surname Espinoza Martinez, is a 32-year-old Nicaraguan immigrant who has been in Costa Rica since June.

Ms Stefaniak, who was born in Venezuela but has lived in Miami since 2000, travelled to Costa Rica with her sister-in-law, April Burton, on 22 November.

In a Facebook post that was published early Wednesday morning, Carla Stefaniak's father was said to have identified her body to investigators late Tuesday evening.

The body was found covered in plastic bags near an Airbnb apartment that was rented by Ms Stefaniak, who went missing almost a week ago.

Investigators said they found blood in Espinoza's apartment.

The man arrested for the killing had worked at the apartment complex, the station said. In what is believed to be the last conversation she had, she told a friend the property was too secluded to leave in the dark, but she was thirsty and was going to the guard shack to ask for water. Instead, she vanished last week, never making it back home alive.

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Some of the additional material surfaced as a result of The Australian newspaper's investigative podcast The Teacher's Pet . Homicide Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Scott Cook, praised the work of Strike Force Scriven investigators.

"As far as we know, she came out at 5am, the security guard opened the gate".

Her brother, Mario Caicedo, told NBC News that Stefaniak checked in for her flight back to the U.S. on November 28 but she never boarded the flight.

An autopsy conducted Tuesday found stab wounds on the arms and neck.

"I have hope that the body found is not my daughter's", he told reporters before his worst fear was confirmed.

"Words can not express how shocking and devastating this is to her family and her friends", Antonieta wrote on Facebook.

After getting dropped off at the Airbnb, Stefaniak went to her room to change and get ready. "We don't know why the media is announcing the identity of the body or what Costa Rica officials are trying to do by not allowing the family to view the remains BEFORE announcing anything".

"Costa Rica is portrayed as paradise that's safe for Americans", Jaime said. Relatives have said she checked in for a return flight to Florida on November 28 but never boarded the plane. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that's been happening in Costa Rica. I started sending her birthday messages and no-one had heard from her at all. US Embassy in Costa Rica and Federal Bureau of Investigation is already alerted.

"After verification, the version of one of the security guards was incompatible and presented many contradictions", Espinoza said in Spanish. "Then they changed the story that it was a taxi at 5.30am". "She checked in for the flight, but she never got on the plane".

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