A family is looking for answers after a Florida woman disappeared while celebrating her birthday in Costa Rica—hours before she was slated to head back to the United States.
Carla Stefaniak, of Miami, was celebrating her 36th birthday, Fox13 reported. Her sister-in-law, April Burton, left the country last week, which is one day earlier than she was slated to return.
“It was her birthday, and it makes me feel really bad. I do feel guilty because I left early,” Burton told Fox13. She saw Stefaniak last at the airport.
After she dropped her sister-in-law off, Stefaniak reportedly paid an Uber driver to take her around San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. Then, she called a friend, telling them she was going to ask a guard at her Airbnb to buy her a bottle of water. That was the last time her friends or family heard from her, the Fox affiliate report said.
The owner of the Airbnb said she was last seen getting into an Uber car with her luggage on Nov. 28. at around 5 a.m. local time. The Uber records don’t list that transaction, however, the report said.
“None of us really believe this 5 a.m. story because it really doesn’t make sense,” Burton told the outlet. “We know she was abducted. There’s no reason for her not to contact anyone.”
Burton told CBS News that a rainstorm apparently knocked out the power at the Airbnb. She continued with, “It’s pretty sketchy here,” Burton said.
Stefaniak’s brother, Mario Caicedio, went to Costa Rica to search for the woman. “We are all destroyed, we are trying to be strong,” he told the Fox station.
Officials in Costa Rica said she may have been abducted because she was checked into her flight, but she never made it to the plane, NBC Miami reported.
“He said he’s not coming back until he finds her,” Burton said of Caicedio, CBS reported. “She was just such a happy go lucky person. I’m just afraid she was just too trusting with someone there.”
Her family set up a Facebook page to help find the woman.
“Words cannot express how shocking and devastating this is to her family and her friends. If anyone can help us with this situation, it will be highly appreciated,” Burton wrote on Facebook.
Crime in Costa Rica
The U.S. State Department in September 2018 sent out a travel advisory for people visiting Costa Rica. “Exercise normal precautions in Costa Rica. Some areas have increased risk,” the agency says.
People in the “Pavas and Hospital neighborhoods [in] San Jose” should exercise caution due to crime, the alert says. “Violent crime, such as armed robbery and assault, is common. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents,” says the State Department. It adds: “Criminal assault and homicides have been reported in these areas. Gang activity, such as territorial disputes and narcotics trafficking, has been reported in Pavas in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy.”
The Costa Rica Star publication in September said the country is “experiencing a mini crime wave,” which will “affect the tourist trade, including hotels, restaurants, tours, taxis,” and more.