CBSN

Body found in Costa Rica is missing U.S. tourist Carla Stefaniak

Last Updated Dec 5, 2018 6:24 AM EST

MIAMI -- Costa Rican authorities confirmed Tuesday that a body found in th Central American country a day earlier is that of a missing U.S. tourist, CBS Miami reports. Officials also said it appeared Carla Stefaniak had  been murdered.

A local security guard was detained in connection with her disappearance, officials said.  

Relatives said late Tuesday on a Facebook page they set up that family members were allowed to see the body and Carla's father confirmed it was his daughter.

"Words cannot express the devastation within her family and friends," her family 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."

Stefaniak, a South Florida resident, spent several days in Costa Rica late last month celebrating her 36th birthday.

Crime scene photos released by the Costa Rican government show investigators pouring over the Airrbnb she was staying in.

The head of Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Department, Walter Espinoza, said an autopsy determined Stefaniak died of stab wounds to the neck and upper torso and that she suffered a blow to the head.

Bismarck Espinoza Martinez, 32, was identified as the security guard who was taken into custody, CBS Miami reported. His statements to police didn't align with surveillance video from the apartment complex, Espinoza said.

On Monday, search dogs found a partially buried female body covered with plastic bags in a wooded area near the Airbnb property where she was staying, Espinoza said, adding that investigators found blood in the apartment.

Her family indicated on Facebook that they'll press investigators to keep at it, saying, "Are we done here? We are not. In the following days, we will release critical digital leads of the investigation, continue asking questions about the involvement of others in Carla's murder. We will make sure this case is not closed like many others in Costa Rica.

"But for now, just know that Carla and her family is grateful for all you have done for her. We truly appreciate the support. Please pray for Carla and for her family. #findingcarla #costarica."

Airbnb told CBS News it is supporting the family and local authorities and has removed Villa Le Mas from its platform.

Family members said Stefaniak missed her return flight home on November 28. They said they received texts from her the night before but then all communication stopped.

Carlos Caicedo, Stefaniak's brother, said the owner of the Airbnb told him a security guard saw his sister get into a car with her bags at 5 a.m. the day of her flight. Caicedo said something didn't add up because his sister's flight was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. later that day and she was "never early for anything."

April Burton, her sister-in-law, spent the week in Costa Rica with Stefaniak. She left the day before her sister-in-law and told CBS News "it seemed so safe" when they were together.