TAMPA, Fla. (FOX13) - The family of 36-year-old Carla Stefaniak--the Tampa native murdered in Costa Rica--arrived at Tampa International Airport early Saturday morning with her ashes.
It was an emotional homecoming inside Terminal A at Tampa International Airport early Saturday morning. Family and friends embraced one another, including brother Carlos Caceido and close friend Greg Zwolinksi, who both left last Friday vowing to find Stefaniak.
"We got on a flight really nervous," Zwolinksi said. "And scared because we didn't really have a game plan."
When they landed in Costa Rica they headed straight to the Airbnb where she was staying, Villa Le Mas.
Heart-breaking news came just days after she was first reported missing. Authorities recovered her body roughly 400 meters from the Airbnb.
"This morning she got delivered by the FBI and they took us to the airport to see her off," Zwolinski said. "And they really moved mountains in order for this to happen otherwise she wouldn't be here with us right now."
Her ashes rested in a wooden graced with flowers and clutched by the hands of her brother Mario Caceido.
"People that didn't know her, they could see something special in her smile," Caceido said. "So that's how we want her to be remembered."
She's described as a loving sister and friend with a passion for traveling. She embarked on a birthday trip to Costa Rica with her best friend and sister-in-law April Burton, who left Costa Rica one day early.
Stefaniak's is believed to be sexually motivated and authorities say it was carried out by 32-year-old Bismark Espinoza Martinez. Martinez worked as a security guard at the Airbnb, where he also lived.
"She brought the whole world together," Zwolinksi said. "there was monumental effort from people and total strangers. She had that effect on everybody. Once you meet her once and see her face and personality, you never forget."
Loved ones plan to eventually hold a memorial service in Tampa to remember her. They also plan on establishing a foundation in her name to help educate people on how to stay safe when traveling abroad.