Family of Fla. Woman Slain at Costa Rica Resort Sues Airbnb, Claims Bad Reviews Were Deleted
Carla Stefaniak, 36, was killed while on vacation in Costa Rica
The family of a Florida woman found dead in Costa Rica is suing Airbnb and the owners of the resort where the woman was killed.
Carla Stefaniak, 36, was on vacation in Costa Rica in late November. She was set to return home on Nov. 28 — her birthday. 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 resort where she was staying.
According to a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County courts on Thursday, Stefaniak’s family claims that both Airbnb and the property owners deleted negative comments about Villa le Mas, a secluded suburban resort in the Costa Rican city of San Jose.
“While defendant, Airbnb, posted complimentary and positive reviews of the resort property and its hosts, there are and were multiple reports since 2013 of guests who encountered bad experiences and recounted being victimized by personnel affiliated with the resort that Defendant, Airbnb sanitized from its own promotions and advertising materials,” the lawsuit, which was obtained by PEOPLE, alleges.
“Our hearts are broken for Carla’s family, friends, and loved ones,” Airbnb said in a statement provided to PEOPLE. “We reached out to provide support to them during this unimaginably difficult time. We have also been in contact with Costa Rican and American law enforcement authorities, and we are standing by to support their investigation, as justice must be served quickly. The Villa Le Mas has been removed from the platform.”
Attorneys for the villa did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Stefaniak’s partially buried body was found in a wooded area about 1,000 feet from the resort. She 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.
A security guard working the property surrounding the Airbnb where Stefaniak was staying was arrested in connection to her death.
According to General Director of Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Department Walter Espinoza, the security guard, 32-year-old Bismarck Espinosa Martinez, became a suspect after allegedly contradicting his story regarding Stefaniak’s whereabouts to police. Espinoza said that Martinez’ alleged “motive is sexual.”
Espinoza also alleged that Martinez has been living in Costa Rica for the past several years illegally.
Martinez was not immediately charged after his arrest and authorities announced he was being held on a preventive sentence and would spend several months in prison. It is not clear if he has been charged yet.
There are no details at this time as to whether or not Martinez has a lawyer or has entered a plea.
Family Claims More Than 1 Person Was Involved in Her Death
On Dec. 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.
“In fact, the doubt extends to that there may be up to three or four possible people involved,” Stefaniak’s family wrote on Dec. 13. “We have been saying this since day 1. This was organized by more than one person as soon as Carla booked the place.”
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After she disappeared, Stefaniak had no online or social media presence.
“Carla’s clothes, iPhone and other electronics were found,” the family wrote. “This is consistent with our initial suspicions and communications with Costa Rican authorities that whoever abducted Carla turned her electronics off and the last digital footprint was at the AirBnb location.”
No other suspects are currently in custody. Costa Rican authorities are continuing to investigate the case.