Security guard detained, body found in Costa Rica believed to be missing FL woman Carla Stefaniak

Posted at 4:33 PM, Dec 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-04 19:14:06-05

A 32-year-old security guard has been detained in Costa Rica after a body was found on the Airbnb property where missing Florida woman, Carla Stefaniak, 36, was staying.

Stefaniak was last heard from on November 27, her family told ABC Action News. She had traveled to Costa Rica to celebrate her birthday with her sister-in-law, April Burton, but decided to stay an extra day after Burton returned to Florida on November 27, the family said.

Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ) says that Bismark Espinoza Martínez was taken into custody around 11 p.m. Monday night.

OIJ officials tell ABC Action News that the body was discovered buried in a mountainous area located in the back of the property, less than 200 feet away from where Stefaniak had been staying. OIJ agents had been searching the area with specialized dogs.


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An autopsy was performed on the woman's body, they say that she had stab wounds around the neck and extremities and report blunt-force trauma to the head.

OIJ officials say that the body appears to be Stefaniak however, they are unable to confirm that without fingerprinting. The FBI is involved to conduct those tests, according to OIJ agents. If fingerprinting does not work, they will make a DNA and dental comparison.

After Stefaniak was reported missing, agents began to investigate where she was last seen. Officials say that the suspect had the time and space to commit this crime and became a suspect because of the investigation. Specifically, his statements did not match video surveillance in and around the area at that time.

OIJ officials say that Martínez was staying in apartment 7 while Stefaniak was staying in apartment 8. In a press conference on Tuesday, officials said that biological fluids consistent with blood were discovered inside apartment 8. The substance has been sent to labs for testing.

Martínez has been in Costa Rica illegally since June 2018, according to Walter Espinoza, the Director General of the OIJ. 

Stefaniak's sister-in-law, April Burton had previously told ABC Action News about statements the security guard told them that she felt were suspicious.

"The guards (at the apartment complex that housed the Airbnb) told us that she left at 5 in the morning with all of her bags and got into an Uber she wouldn’t do that her flight was at 1:30 p.m. she’s never been early for anything in her life she wouldn’t leave to go to the airport at 5:30 a.m.," Burton told ABC Action News.

At this time, Martínez is being held by authorities as they await FBI identification. 

ABC Action News' JJ Burton, Nicole Grigg, Michael Paluska, and Isabel Rosales contributed to this report.