Authorities say the murder of a Florida woman on her birthday vacation in Costa Rica was sexually motivated.
Bismark Espinosa Martinez, a guard at the Airbnb where 36-year-old Carla Stefaniak was staying, was detained on Monday in connection with the slaying. Martinez, who is originally from Nicaragua, reportedly lived next door to the apartment Stefaniak was in.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Walter Espinoza, director general of Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Department, said police zeroed in on Martinez after he contradicted himself in statements to authorities.
Authorities added that Martinez’s alleged “motive is sexual.”
Martinez had initially told police he saw Stefaniak get into a taxi around 5 a.m. on Nov. 28 and he helped her put her bags inside, but he eventually changed that story, Espinoza said.
Stefaniak’s body was found Monday near the Airbnb she’d been staying in with her sister-in-law, April Burton. She was partially nude and covered in plastic bags, police said.
She had been hit in the head and stabbed multiple times. It was previously reported that she died from a blow to the head but at Wednesday’s press conference, the medical examiner said she died from a stab wound to the neck.
Burton left the day before Stefaniak was scheduled to fly out. Family members grew worried the next day when Stefaniak did not reply to any of the birthday wishes she had received. They then found out she hadn't boarded her flight.
Stefaniak is remembered as someone who loved to travel. Her family expressed their devastation at her loss in a social media post.
“Words cannot express the devastation within her family and friends,” the Facebook page “Finding Carla” said. “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.”
Airbnb has since taken down the listing where Stefaniak stayed.
Airbnb lists tips on its website to follow in order to safely book a listing on the site, including looking at the host profiles and reviews of a place. The company encourages users to check for verified phone numbers and connected social media.
The company also added that travelers should research the neighborhood where they will be staying, and inform family and friends of their whereabouts.