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The killing of an American tourist who was in Costa Rica to celebrate her 36th birthday was likely sexually motivated, investigators believe.
Walter Espinoza, director general of Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Department, announced the suspected motive in a news conference Wednesday, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The body of Florida resident Carla Stefaniak was found Monday about 300 yards away from the apartment complex where she had been staying, partially buried and covered in plastic.
Investigators say a man being held in connection with the homicide was a security guard working on the property. Bismark Espinosa Martinez was staying the in the apartment next to the one Stefaniak had rented for her trip.
Stefaniak had reportedly mentioned to a friend on a FaceTime call that she planned to ask a security guard for some water because a storm had knocked out power, NBC News reports. She had also reportedly texted her family telling them it was "pretty sketchy" at the Airbnb.
Espinoza said the security guard had provided conflicting statements about his interactions with Stefaniak before her death.
Initially he had claimed that he last saw Stefaniak around 5 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 28, the day she was scheduled to fly home, and had helped her put her bags in a taxi. But he later changed his story, investigators said.
“He presented many contradictions,” Espinoza said according to the Miami Herald. “As of that moment, he became a suspect.”
Martinez has not yet been officially charged in the case but is being detained by authorities, who said he could soon be charged with murder.
An autopsy has revealed that Stefaniak died from a neck injury. She also had a head injury along with cuts on her neck and arms.
Her father, Carlos Caicedo told WFTS-TV in Tampa that his daughter had been trying to defend herself at the time.
"I guess that Carla fought," he said. "[They] cut the jugular and then [attacked] the head after."
The family is now left grieving as they try to understand the loss.
"That's my team, two and two," Caicedo said in the interview holding up a photo of his two sons and two daughters. "We are incomplete."
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