TAMPA, Fla. — Costa Rican officials believe the worst in the case of a missing Tampa Bay native.
- Carla Stefaniak missing since Nov. 27
- She was not on flight that returned to Tampa
- LINK: GoFundMe page to assist in search
- LINK: Flyer released by Costa Rica authorities
- LINK: Sister-in-law's Facebook page
They are waiting for additional tests but believe a body found this week is that of Carla Stefanik.
The 36-year old was due to return home November 28 but never made her flight.
Meanwhile, officials have announced the arrest of a 32-year-old man as they continue the investigation.
Bismark Espinoza Martinez, from Nicaragua, was arrested.
Costa Rican police said Tuesday there is strong evidence that a body found near the hotel where Stefaniak was staying is indeed her.
Martinez has been in Costa Rica since June and, according to police, worked as a guard at the hotel where Stefaniak was staying.
The body found near the hotel suffered blunt force trauma and had a bruise on her neck. Officials are waiting for additional DNA and fingerprints, along with surveillance video, before making a final identification.
For the family, it is a frustrating and painful time. A family friend told Spectrum Bay News 9's Dave Jordan that Stefaniak's father, brother and friend were at the morgue in Costa Rica but were not allowed to see the body.
"The family is devastated. They are now (fully) numb, and the family wants answers," family friend Bruga Demirel said Tuesday.
Stefaniak, 36, and April Burton, Stefaniak's sister-in-law, traveled to Costa Rica Thanksgiving weekend. Burton returned November 27 because of a prior engagement with her husband. Sefaniak was expected back on the 28th.
Stefaniak’s family and friends, who live in Tampa, have not heard from her since she texted them from her Airbnb rental Tuesday night to say the power was going in and out.
Her brother flew to Costa Rica last week to assist authorities in the search.
The investigation is ongoing and officials said an active search is still ongoing.