Family and friends of Carla Stefaniak are in anguish as they await identification of a body found in the same area where the Florida woman disappeared in Central America last week.
“We are all still waiting for confirmation,” reads a Tuesday message on the Finding Carla Facebook page. “The wait is so painful. ... We will update everyone as soon as we know.”
The body was found Monday in a wooded area behind the Villa Le Mas Airbnb Stefaniak was staying at in San Antonio de Escazú, a suburb of San José, Costa Rica.
Walter Espinoza, director of Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Department, held a news conference on Tuesday. He said the body belongs to a woman and was found half-buried and covered with plastic bags.
The body was “in a state of decomposition,” Espinoza added. He did not discuss a possible cause of death.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, blood was found in Stefaniak’s room and a security guard who works at the Airbnb is being held in custody as authorities investigate.
Federico Jenkins, a lawyer for the complex where Stefaniak stayed, said in a statement to ABC News that the owners are cooperating with police:
We are deeply saddened and devastated by the tragic events. The owners are fully cooperating with the authorities in the investigation and we hope that once the facts are determined, the perpetrator is brought to justice. Our deepest sympathies are with the family of the victim of this horrible crime.
The Finding Carla Facebook page was created by her family and has been used as a place to share information about the Miami woman, who was reported missing on Nov. 28.
“We need all the prayers in the world right now,” reads a Monday post.
Stefaniak vanished while celebrating her 36th birthday. Her sister-in-law, April Burton, accompanied her on the trip but left on Nov. 27 because of a prior commitment. Stefaniak, who stayed behind to enjoy an extra night, was scheduled to fly home the following day but never made her 1:30 p.m. flight, authorities said.
On Nov. 29, Costa Rican police put out an appeal for anyone who may have seen or had contact with Stefaniak to come forward.
Family members said the owner of the Airbnb told them a guard reported seeing Stefaniak get into a car with her bags around 5 a.m. on Nov. 28.
“None of us really believe this 5 a.m. story because it really doesn’t make sense,” Burton told Tampa’s Fox 13 News. “We know she was abducted. There’s no reason for her not to contact anyone.”
Burton said Stefaniak sent an alarming message to a friend the night before she was reported missing, saying, “It’s pretty sketchy here.”
Stefaniak then reportedly had a FaceTime exchange with another friend and said she was going to ask a security guard at the Airbnb to get her a bottled water. That was the last conversation she’s known to have had with anyone she knew.
The Miami Herald reported that Stefaniak immigrated to the United States from Venezuela in 2000 and works for a Miami insurance agency.
Stefaniak’s brother, Mario Caicedo, flew to Costa Rica to search for his sister. He and other family members were awaiting a call from the morgue on Tuesday for news on the identity of the body that was found.
Laura Jaime, Stefaniak’s friend of more than 13 years, told the Tampa Bay Times that everyone is hoping against all odds the body does not belong to Stefaniak.
“Hope is the last thing you’ve got to lose,” she said.