Updated 2:01pm. A witness in the case of the murder of American tourist Carla Stefaniak assured to police that she heard the only suspect confess to the crime. This is established by the accusation that outrages friends and relatives of the victim.
Carla Stefaniak was murdered between November 27 and 28, 2018, at the Villa Buena Vista property in San Antonio de Escazú.
Bismark Espinoza Martinez has now been charged with the murder by the Fiscalia de Pavas (Prosecutor’s Office) with “homicidio simple” or second-degree murder. If convicted, Espinoza Martinez faces from 12 to 18 years in prison, according to the Criminal Code.
On the Facebook page Finding Carla, a page created “To bring justice to all those responsible for the murder of Carla Stefaniak”, Karla’s friends and family expressed their dissatisfaction with the second-degree murder charge.
“This is beyond sickening! This like many other cases in Costa Rica are either swept under the rug or minimized in hopes that it will be forgotten. The prosecutor, David Padilla Mora has only charged Carla’s suspected killer with “Simple Murder/Homicide” which only gives 12-18 years sentence for MURDER!!! The LOWEST possible sentence!!!
“As you can imagine the family is devastated and is fighting back in hopes that the appropriate charges are filed! The family can’t fight without you! Just as you all helped us find Carla, we now need justice for Carla’s murder, and for all those involved to get the maximum punishment they deserve. It’s time for Costa Rican officials to do what’s right not only for their community but for their tourists and all who love their country! Show us that you CARE!”, says the post of July 30.
According to the report by Telenoticias (Teletica), the accusation states the following:
“Espinoza taking advantage of the domain of the site, decided to approach Karla Stefaniak, for which he went to the villa she occupied, located 20 meters from the security booth and on the property in which the accused resided.
“Without being able to determine how by virtue of the fact that there was no force on the doors and windows, the defendant entered and once attacked her with a “arma blanca” (blade weapon) causing seven wounds at the neck and face.
“Then, the accused taking advantage of the geographical and conditions of the site, in order to disappear the body moved her approximately 100 meters from the property and hid it in the undergrowth.
“Among the relevant witnesses, there is the lady who, in addition to working in the villas, is a friend of the mother of the accused, who can undoubtedly confirm the telephone conversation that existed between the mother and the wife of the accused, in which Bismark’s wife told the mother-in-law the confession of having been the one who murdered the victim.”
Also, in the accusation, there is the testimony of a Mexican tourist who rented the room where the young woman was murdered just a few hours after.
Investigators noted in their report that the room was cleaned with vinegar, chlorine and other substances in order to remove blood stains.
This is something that is also criticized by the victim’s father who argues that it is impossible for only one person to participate in the crime.
Telenoticias says it spoke to Karla’s father, by phone from Venezuela, on learning of the charges, who is outraged at the situation, the investigation by authorities and the lower charge.
Currently, Espinoza Martinez is in preventive detention (remand) awaiting trial.
Costa Rica’s Criminal Code
The difference between first and second-degree murder (homicidio calificado and homicio simple) is defined in Article 111 and 112 of Costa Rica’s Criminal Code.
Homicidio calificado carries a sentence of between 20 and 35 years in prison. To qualify as homicidio calificado, the crime must meet one of eight criteria, which include killing with premeditation or with cruelty. Click here to read the definitions (in Spanish).
Edit note: the original story had Carla Stefaniak as a Venezuelan tourist. We’ve corrected to “American” tourist of Venezuelan descent.