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Family of woman slain in Costa Rica sues Airbnb, resort owners

The family of a South Florida woman slain in Costa Rica has filed a lawsuit against Airbnb and the owners of the resort where she rented a room in November.

Carla Stefaniak's family said the owners of Villa le Mas, a secluded resort in the San Jose suburb of San Antonio de Escazú, failed to conduct a background check on a Nicaraguan security guard who was in Costa Rica illegally, according to the suit filed in Hillsborough County, Fla., on Thursday.

Bismark Espinoza Martinez, killed Stefaniak, 36, on Nov. 28 -- her 36th birthday -- when she returned to the apartment villa she rented through Airbnb after dropping off her sister-in-law at the airport, authorities said.

He was arrested on Dec. 3, several hours after search dogs found Stefaniak's body in plastic bags on the property about 1,000 feet from her room.

"Multiple persons were involved in removing and disposing" her body, the lawsuit says in citing forensic evidence.

Martinez's job came with the free use of a hotel apartment, which was next to the one rented by Stefaniak. The 32-year-old guard had a pass key to every room in the complex, according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Jeffrey "Jack" Gordon on behalf of Stefaniak's two brothers.

In the suit, the resort's owners and Airbnb were accused of being negligent protecting customers. All parties profiting from Stefaniak's booking, including Airbnb, should have known the potential danger posed by giving Martinez "unsupervised access to vulnerable women guests in a private setting," according to the lawsuit.

"Village Buena Vista, was or have been aware and understood how vulnerable guests were to violence or abuse by security guards, staff, official personnel and other persons of authority within the control of defendants," according to the lawsuit.

Airbnb also is accused of deleting negative guest reviews on its site.

"While defendant, Airbnb, posted complimentary and positive reviews of the resort property and its hosts, there are and were multiple reports since 2013 of guests who encountered bad experiences and recounted being victimized by personnel affiliated with the resort that Defendant, Airbnb sanitized from its own promotions and advertising materials," the lawsuit states.

In addition, the resort nor Airbnb communicated U.S. Department of State travel advisories through its Bureau of Consular Affair to their customers, the lawsuit states. The agency has warned for several years that violent crime such as armed robbery and assault is common in Costa Rica.

Trace amounts of blood were found in the villa apartment where Stefaniak stayed, authorities have said. In addition, an autopsy found that her death was caused by blunt force trauma to her head, and she also received a broken neck and cuts on her neck and arms.

"Our hearts are broken for Carla's family, friends, and loved ones," Airbnb said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. "We reached out to provide support to them during this unimaginably difficult time."

Airbnb said it has removed the resort from its website and is "standing by to support [the] investigation, as justice must be served quickly."

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