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Body found in Costa Rican backyard where Riverview family says relative went missing

Authorities are searching for Carla Stefaniak, 36, who went missing in Costa Rica on Nov. 27, 2018. [GoFundMe]
Authorities are searching for Carla Stefaniak, 36, who went missing in Costa Rica on Nov. 27, 2018. [GoFundMe]
Published Dec. 3, 2018

TAMPA — Authorities in Costa Rica said they discovered a woman's body on the property where a Riverview family say their loved one went missing while on vacation last month.

Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Department confirmed the discovery Monday, but had not identified the remains as Carla Stefaniak, 36, of Hallandale Beach, according to NBC Miami affiliate WTVJ.

Tuesday will mark one week since Stefaniak, who lived in Tampa for about 10 years, was last in contact with family or friends. She was supposed to return home from San Jose on Nov. 28 but never showed up for her flight, her family said on a GoFundMe page. The last time she posted to social media accounts was the night before.

Officials said Monday that dogs discovered a body in the backyard of the villa Stefaniak rented from AirBnB during her trip with her sister-in-law to celebrate Stefaniak's 36th birthday. The body was only half-buried in the ground and had been covered with plastic bags.

Her sister-in-law, April Antonieta, wrote in a Facebook post that on the day she went missing that Stefaniak had taken an Uber from Thrifty car rental. The driver waited 50 minutes for Stefaniak before taking her on a tour of San Jose. She was back at her villa between 4 and 5 p.m.

The last message her family from her was: "It's pretty sketchy here." She also texted that it was pouring rain and that the power was out.

Family members traveled to Costa Rica to search for her and said local authorities have opened a "missing persons" case. The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica and the FBI were also alerted.

"Words cannot express how shocking and devastating this is to her family and her friends," Antonieta wrote on Facebook.

Contact Anastasia Dawson at adawson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.

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