TAMPA (FOX 13) - Nearly a week after 36-year-old Carla Stefaniak went missing in Costa Rica, authorities there announced Monday that they found a body near the Airbnb where she was last seen. On Tuesday morning, relatives announced they were heading to the morgue to identify the recovered body.
Carlos Caicedo, Stefaniak's father, is desperate to hear his daughter's voice.
"You can't imagine what I'm feeling, okay?" Caicedo said. "We need her with us. We need her with us."
Stefaniak, formerly of Tampa, was in Costa Rica last week celebrating her birthday with her sister-in-law, April Burton. Burton flew home last Tuesday the 27th. Stefaniak was due to fly home the following day.
"She checked into her flight but she never got on the plane," Burton said.
Her family feared she was kidnapped. Then, Monday brought disheartening news. Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Department confirmed that they found the decomposed body of a woman not far from the Airbnb where Stefaniak was staying. However, could not yet confirm if it was Stefaniak before an autopsy.
"We did a review of the apartment where she stayed overnight the last time," said Walter Espinoza, Spokesman for Judicial Investigation Department. "Using specialized equipment and trained dogs, we located biological fluids inside the apartment compatible with blood. They are going to be subjected to review and comparison."
Stefaniak's family said that after she dropped her sister-in-law off at the airport on the 27th, an Uber driver took her to the Airbnb, and later, sightseeing around San Jose. That Uber driver, the Airbnb owner, and local security guards share the same story - that she was seen leaving the rental early that next morning with luggage, entering a mysterious car.
Stefaniak's brother flew to Costa Rica last Friday to join the search. Her father caught a flight from Tampa International Airport on Monday.
"I need the Lord," he said before leaving.
Monday night, a message was posted on the "Finding Carla" Facebook page: "We need all the prayers in the world right now."
"Family, we are all destroyed," said Stefaniak's brother Mario Caicedo. "We are trying to be strong. We are just praying. We're on the hand of God on this."
We reached out to Airbnb regarding their involvement. They told FOX 13, "We have reached out to Carla’s family to support them as best we can. In addition, we have reached back out to the FBI, OIJ, and the local US Embassy in Costa Rica to offer our continued support and cooperation with their investigation."