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Suspect in Carla Stefaniak’s death charged with second-degree murder

July 31, 2019

Last November, United States tourist Carla Stefaniak was found dead near the San Antonio de Escazú apartment she had rented through Airbnb.

Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) treated the case as a homicide and soon arrested a security guard, surname Espinoza Martinez, who worked at the Villa Buena Vista property.

Espinoza Martinez has now been charged by the Pavas Prosecutor’s Office with homicidio simple, or second-degree murder, according to Teletica. Punishment includes up to 18 years in prison, in accordance with Costa Rica’s Criminal Code.

The Prosecutor’s Office’s decision means Espinoza Martinez could avoid the lengthier prison time mandated by homicidio calificado, or first-degree murder, which is the highest degree of homicide charge in Costa Rica.

According to Article 111 and 112 of Costa Rica’s Criminal Code, the requirements for a first-degree murder charge — which carries a 20 to 35-year prison sentence — are significantly more stringent than for a second-degree charge. To qualify as homicidio calificado, the crime must meet one of eight criteria, which include killing:

  • With premeditation or with cruelty.
  • By a suitable means to create a common danger.
  • To prepare, facilitate, assume or conceal another crime.
  • For a price or promise of remuneration.

On Finding Carla, a Facebook page created “to bring justice to all those responsible for the murder of Carla Stefaniak,” the 36-year-old U.S.-Venezuelan tourist’s friends and family expressed their dissatisfaction with the second-degree charge.

“This is beyond sickening,” they wrote. “This like many other cases in Costa Rica are either swept under the rug or minimized in hopes that it will be forgotten!

“As you can imagine the family is devastated and is fighting back in hopes that the appropriate charges are filed!”

Editor’s note (11:20 a.m.): Click here to read the Criminal Code defining first- and second-degree murders in Costa Rica. 

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