(COLORADO SPRINGS) — The man convicted of killing 19-year-old Kara Nichols in 2012 is set to receive a longer sentence due to his criminal history.
The jury’s recent guilty verdict of manslaughter in June was met with shock and dismay by Nichols’ family and friends, who had hoped for a first-degree murder conviction.
On Monday afternoon, July 24, at a hearing for Joel Hollendorfer, prosecutors successfully proved that Hollendorfer was a habitual offender – a crucial factor under state law that mandates longer sentences for individuals with a history of multiple felonies.
Prosecutors specifically cited four felony convictions, including burglary and theft dating back to the 1990s. Consequently, instead of the initially anticipated two to six years in prison for manslaughter, Hollendorfer could now face eight to 24 years behind bars.
The courtroom was filled with anticipation as everyone awaited the sentencing of the convicted killer. However, what was expected to be a brief proceeding turned into a grueling five-hour ordeal, leaving Nichols’ loved ones still seeking answers.
Autumn Hopfe, Kara Nichols’ best friend, expressed frustration at the drawn-out process: “It’s super frustrating that we’ve been doing this for ten years… When it comes down to it, I mean, this is somebody who should spend the rest of their life in prison.”
The case of Kara Nichols had remained unsolved for almost a decade since her disappearance in 2012, until investigators finally discovered her body on Hollendorfer’s property in Black Forest in 2022.
Hollendorfer’s extensive criminal history was not presented during the trial. This omission prompted one anonymous juror to express regret, believing that knowledge of Hollendorfer’s violent past could have influenced their deliberations.
“It would have given us another line of discussion when we were trying to figure out second-degree versus manslaughter… We didn’t know he had a violent history… We didn’t get to hear about any of his past criminal history,” said the juror, who wished to remain anonymous.
However, the juror emphasized the impartiality of their decision, stating, “We saw Kara as a person. We saw her as a 19-year-old kid. We didn’t look at her as an escort… We didn’t look at her drug history. None of that mattered to us. We had a lot of compassion for her because she was robbed of a life… Joel took that away from her.”
Hollendorfer’s sentencing hearing is expected to take place in early October. While some hope for the closure that this verdict will bring, others, like Hopfe, are still grappling with their emotions.
Hopfe expressed her anger, particularly in light of Hollendorfer’s mother’s presence throughout the trial.
“I get to sit in a courtroom with Joel’s mom, and she was a part of the whole process, and she could still walk outside of the courtroom requesting for a smoke break when the rest of us are just wanting our friend or loved one back. It’s just impossible to have to deal with that,” said Hopfe.
As the community waits for the conclusion of this harrowing case, the memory of Kara Nichols remains alive in the hearts of those who knew and loved her, as they continue to seek justice and closure for her death.
Before a date is set for the sentencing hearing, Hollendorfer is expected back in court on Aug. 23 for a proportionality review.