American Tourist on Birthday Trip Was Killed by Security Guard at Costa Rica Resort

Steve Helling

A former resort security guard at an Airbnb in Costa Rica has been convicted of killing an American tourist in 2018, according to local reports.

Carla Stefaniak, 36, was on vacation in Costa Rica in late November of that year. She was set to return home on November 28 — her birthday, which the trip was planned to celebrate. She checked into her flight online, but never boarded the plane.

On the day before her disappearance, she texted her sister-in-law and said that conditions were “pretty sketchy” at the Villa Buena Vista resort in the San Jose suburb of Escazu, where she was staying.

Her partially-buried body was found in a wooded area near the resort, covered in plastic bags. An autopsy found that she died as a result of head injuries, but also suffered multiple stab wounds on her neck in what authorities described as a sexually-motivated attack.

A security guard working the property, Bismarck Espinoza Martinez, was later arrested in connection with her death.

According to a report from Costa Rican newspaper La Nación, Martinez was found guilty of homicide for fatally stabbing Stefaniak. He has been sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Walter Espinoza, the General Director of Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Department, said that the 32-year-old security guard became a suspect after contradicting his story regarding Stefaniak’s whereabouts to police.

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On December 13, Stefaniak’s family wrote on a Facebook page launched after her disappearance that sources involved in the investigation have told them more than one person was likely involved in her death.

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Carla Stefaniak | Facebook

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“In fact, the doubt extends to that there may be up to three or four possible people involved,” Stefaniak’s family wrote. “We have been saying this since day 1. This was organized by more than one person as soon as Carla booked the place.”

It’s unclear whether other people will be charged in Stefaniak’s death. No other suspects are currently in custody.