TAMPA (FOX 13) - The search for a Florida woman, missing for a week in Costa Rica, has come to a tragic end. Officials there believe a body found Monday is that of Carla Stefaniak, and a security guard at her Airbnb is being questioned.
Stefaniak, 36, was on a trip to celebrate her birthday with her sister-in-law and friend, April Burton. After the girls' five-day trip, Burton returned to Tampa last Tuesday, and Carla was scheduled to head back the next day. But when Stefaniak never got off the plane on Wednesday, her family knew something was wrong.
The night before her flight, Stefaniak took an Uber ride around the town and then was dropped off at an Airbnb. There, she Facetimed a friend from New York, telling him she was thirsty and was going to find a drink.
"[She said,] ‘I'm just going to ask the guards to buy me a bottle of water,’" Burton told FOX 13 News last week. "He said her phone died, and that was the last we heard from her."
The owner of the Airbnb told Stefaniak’s family members that she was seen getting into an Uber with luggage around 5 a.m. the next day, but Stefaniak's Uber records did not list a transaction.
Stefaniak's brother flew to Costa Rica last Friday to look for her. Her father caught a flight from Tampa International Airport on Monday – not long before authorities in Costa Rica made the grim announcement that an unidentified body had been found not far from the Airbnb.
Tuesday afternoon, officials announced that the body appears to be Stefaniak, though they were waiting on fingerprint information to confirm. An autopsy determined she died as a result of injuries to her head, neck, and limbs.
"As of this moment, all data gathered points to this being Carla," stated Walter Espinoza, the director of Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Department.
Officials also said a 32-year-old Nicaraguan security guard was being detained in connection with her death after offering conflicting stories to investigators.
Meanwhile, Stefaniak's family members say they have still not been allowed to view the body and they were in the process of securing dental records when the announcement was made.
"The family has not confirmed the identity by viewing or providing DNA samples," the family's Facebook page noted.