Family of Woman Murdered on Birthday Trip to Costa Rica Sues Airbnb, Complex Owner

Carla Stefaniak

The last anyone heard from Carla Stefaniak was the night before when she sent a text message saying the Airbnb she was staying at was “pretty sketchy.”

The relatives of a Florida woman who was killed while staying at an Airbnb in Costa Rica last month are suing the company, claiming it was negligent. 

Carla Stefaniak, 36, died after traveling to Costa Rica for a birthday trip with her sister-in-law, April Burton. Burton left the day before Stefaniak was scheduled to fly out. Stefaniak never made that flight on Nov. 28. 

The last anyone heard from her was the night before when she sent a text message saying the Airbnb she was staying at was “pretty sketchy.”

She also said the power had gone out and she was thirsty. She said she planned to ask one of the Airbnb security guards for water.

She was later found dead near the apartment complex where she had been staying, partially nude and covered in plastic bags, police said. Her murder has been described as sexually motivated. 

Bismarck Espinosa Martinez, a guard at the Airbnb where Stefaniak was staying, was detained on Dec. 3 in connection with the slaying. He was staying next door to the apartment where Stefaniak was. Police arrested him after allegedly noticing inconsistencies in his story.

According to the lawsuit filed in a Florida court by Stefaniak's family, Martinez, a Nicaraguan immigrant, allegedly did not have the appropriate documentation for employment. The suit also names the owner of the apartment complex, Villa le Mas, in addition to Airbnb. 

In a statement to CNN, Airbnb offered its condolences to the family and said it had taken the complex off its listings.

"We reached out to provide support to them during this unimaginably difficult time. We have also been in contact with Costa Rican and American law enforcement authorities, and we are standing by to support their investigation, as justice must be served quickly," Airbnb said. "The Villa Le Mas has been removed from the platform."

The Villa le Mas has not commented on the suit. 

Airbnb provides tips on its site for safely booking a place to stay, including looking at the host profiles and reviews. The company encourages users to check for verified phone numbers and connected social media.

The company also added travelers should research the neighborhood where they will be staying, and inform family and friends of their whereabouts.