Miami woman ‘vanished’ during Costa Rica trip
A body was found Monday outside the Airbnb where a missing Miami woman was staying, officials with Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Department told the Miami Herald.
Carla Stefaniak, 36, went missing during her vacation in San Jose on the night of Nov. 27, a day before her birthday, her family says. The next day, local law enforcement launched an investigation.
According to Costa Rica’s government spokesman Walter Espinoza, a woman’s body was found wrapped in plastic, buried outside the apartment she was renting. The discovery came while authorities stripped the unit for her DNA.
”We cannot yet confirm that it is the body of Carla Stefaniak,” Espinoza said. “Once we get the autopsy results, we can provide more details.”
Since her disappearance, thousands of people gathered online to help find her. Several Facebook groups were made and the hashtag #FindingCarla began to circulate.
Stefaniak’s family and friends, who live in Tampa, have not heard from her since she texted them from her Airbnb rental on Tuesday night to say the power was going in and out. Stefaniak’s sister-in-law, April Burton, was in Costa Rica celebrating her birthday but returned to Florida the day before.
“Stefaniak dropped Burton off at the airport in San Jose on Nov. 27 and returned their rental car. Stefaniak then took an Uber to an Airbnb about 30 minutes from the airport,” said Katie Gardner, the family’s spokesperson. “The same Uber driver drove Stefaniak sightseeing and shopping.”
According to Gardner, Stefaniak texted her family updates and photos throughout the late afternoon. That evening, back at the Airbnb, the sisters continued to text.
The last text from Stefaniak came in around 8 p.m.
“At midnight Eastern time, Burton texted Stefaniak to wish her a happy birthday but did not receive a response,” Gardner said. “The next day, Burton got a call from a friend who said Stefaniak had not responded to any happy birthday texts or messages. Alarmed, they discovered Stefaniak had never boarded her flight home, which was scheduled for departure around 1 p.m. on Nov. 28.”
According to Stefaniak’s family, the family has since spoken to the Uber driver, who shared the same story as the Airbnb owner and local security guards: Stefaniak was seen leaving the rental around 5 a.m. with her luggage and then hopping into a mysterious car.
Stefaniak’s brother flew from Tampa to Costa Rica and is working with authorities to try to find his sister.
“The Uber driver arrived around 8 a.m. to pick up Stefaniak but could not find her,” Gardner said. “However, her family says the story does not make sense since her flight was not until that afternoon and the airport was only 30 minutes away. And since she had already used that Uber driver the day before, why would she have called a different Uber?”
Stefaniak, who works at an insurance agency in Miami, immigrated to Tampa from Venezuela in 2000. She moved to Miami in 2012.