EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — FOX21 has obtained more information about how 19-year-old Kara Nichols’ remains were found ten years after she mysteriously disappeared.
Kara Nichols goes missing
Kara Nichols was last seen on Oct. 9 by her roommates. On Oct. 14, 2012, Kara’s father, Paul Nichols, contacted the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) and told authorities his daughter was missing. During that conversation, Nichols told authorities his daughter had a history of heroin use and had recently been in rehabilitation.
Investigators later learned Kara was working as an escort and had recently created advertisements for her services. As authorities continued to investigate, they were able to retrieve Kara’s cellphone records, which included conversation between her and Joel Hollendorfer.
Those texts indicated Hollendorfer hoped to meet Kara for her escort services. When authorities later asked Hollendorfer about those messages, he admitted to talking with Kara, but denied ever meeting her in-person.
In addition to text messages and phone calls, investigators were able to track Kara’s last known location thanks to AT&T Mobility Usage data and phone towers. Through that technology, authorities discovered Kara travelled from Galley Road all the way to Burgess Road – specifically, 9665 Burgess Road – where Hollendorfer and his parents lived.
In October 2014, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office obtained a search warrant for the home and property. EPSO deputies, members from NecroSearch International, Colorado Bureau of Investigations, the Colorado Springs Police Department Metro Crime Lab, and several cadaver dogs searched the property.
During that time, investigators interviewed Joel’s mother, Betty Hollendorfer, who suggested that authorities search the property across the street. When authorities released four cadaver dogs onto that property, each dog headed toward one specific spot. There, investigators found an area that had been “systemically excavated, and it was apparent that roots were dug up at the site and a hole had been dug approximately the perimeter size of a human body.”
Yet, no human remains were found.
Hollendorfer’s wife, Kristina, speaks to the FBI
For the next nine years, the case remained cold. But that changed in January 2022 when Joel Hollendorfer’s wife, Kristina Palmer (Hollendorfer) spoke to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
During that conversation, Palmer told authorities Hollendorfer admitted he accidentally killed an escort he hired several years ago and had buried her body on his parents’ property on top of an old horse grave.
Palmer also told authorities she believed Hollendorfer’s parents knew about the murder and were covering for their son.
Hollendorfer taken into custody and interviewed
On Feb. 7, 2022, Hollendorfer was taken into custody on an unrelated warrant. During an interview with authorities, Hollendorfer again denied ever meeting Kara and said he had nothing to do with her death.
However, when authorities asked Hollendorfer to identify the location where several family horses had been buried, he pointed out a specific spot and described it as a “dry patch with a high spot” and insisted that nothing was buried there.
But, when authorities asked Hollendorfer’s mother about the same spot, she said that was where her favorite horse was buried.
Authorities find the remains of Kara Nichols
On Feb. 3, authorities visited the spot that was originally flagged by cadaver dogs a decade ago. There, three feet down, they found a black garbage bag. Inside were human remains. Those human remains were later confirmed to be Kara Nichols.
Authorities now believe Hollendorfer picked Kara up near Mission Road in order to have consensual sex near his parents’ home. Sometime during their encounter, Hollendorfer strangled Kara until she died. He then took her to his parents’ property where he buried her.
Hollendorfer has been booked into the El Paso County Jail on bonds totaling over one million dollars. He is expected to be in court on Feb. 17, 2022.
Anyone with additional information is asked to contact EPSO’s Investigations Tip Line at 719-520-6666.