Officials in Costa Rica say the motive behind the abduction and killing of a tourist from Florida “is sexual” in nature following the arrest of a suspect on Tuesday.
Police arrested 32-year-old Bismark Espinosa Martinez, a security guard at the resort where Carla Stefaniak had been staying near San Jose.
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During a Wednesday press conference, Walter Espinoza, the director general of Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Department, said Martinez had given contradictory statements to police. He lived next door to the Airbnb rental in which Stefaniak was staying with her sister-in-law.
When her sister-in-law left the country on November 27, Stefaniak stayed at the resort and then went missing.
Her body was found four days later on Monday, partially-nude and covered with plastic bags. According to the medical examiner, she had been hit in the head and had cuts on her neck and arms.
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Espinoza said in a previous press conference that blood was discovered inside the rental and has since been transported to a lab for testing, ABC Action News reports.
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During Wednesday’s press conference, Espinoza said that Martinez was a Nicaraguan immigrant who worked at the complex, despite lacking the proper documents to be in Costa Rica.
He is being held on a preventive sentence in Costa Rica and will spend the next few months in prison.
There are no details at this time as to whether or not Martinez has a lawyer or has entered a plea.
Stefaniak, from Tampa, was expected to return home to Hallandale Beach on November 28 — her 36th birthday — but her family grew worried after she didn’t make it back. While she checked into her flight online, she never got on the plane.
Stefaniak’s sister-in-law, April Burton, had to cut her time in Costa Rica short due to an obligation back home, according to Fox 13 Tampa Bay.
“It was her birthday, and it makes me feel really bad. I do feel guilty because I left early,” Burton told the outlet.
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During Wednesday’s press conference, Espinoza declined to give more details about the attack. He told reporters that investigators have forwarded their report to the prosecutors’ office but are still gathering evidence. They are asking nearby properties to turn over their surveillance videos from the night of the attack.
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While police continue to investigate the case, those close to Stefaniak are mourning her loss.
“Words cannot express the devastation within her family and friends,” the family posted on the “Finding Carla” Facebook page launched after her disappearance. “We want the world to know that we will never forget Carla. We will never forget the joy she brought into our lives, how much she made us laugh. We will always be with her and we know she will always be with us. May god bless her soul.”