ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A security guard at a Costa Rica Airbnb rental villa was arrested in the death of a Florida woman who was remembered by friends as an avid world traveler and “happy soul,” authorities said Wednesday.
Carla Stefaniak of Hallandale Beach, Florida, went to the Central American country to celebrate her 36th birthday but never boarded her Nov. 28 return flight after messaging friends that it was “pretty sketchy” at her resort. That prompted her family to raise the alarm with Costa Rican authorities.
Officials later found a partially buried body in woods near the Villa le Mas complex and identified it using fingerprints, the country’s Judicial Investigation Department said. Stefaniak’s family members also traveled to there to help with identification.
Security guard Bismark Espinosa Martinez, 32, was arrested in the slaying after he contradicted himself in statements to police, the department said Wednesday. Investigators said blood was found in his nearby apartment.
“What happened to Carla is just unimaginable,” friend Bugra Demirel of Tallahassee said in a telephone interview. He said Carla was a “happy soul” who made everyone laugh and had a large social media presence.
Espinosa Martinez, a Nicaraguan immigrant, was working as a security guard at the complex despite lacking the proper documents to be in Costa Rica, department officials said at a news conference in San Jose. He is believed to have lived in Costa Rica since June.