NewsCovering Colorado


Family of Kara Nichols stunned by manslaughter verdict in her death, family speaks following trial

Posted at 4:07 PM, Jun 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-23 11:14:32-04

EL PASO COUNTY — The case against Joel Hollendorfer, accused of murdering 19-year-old Kara Nichols almost ten years ago, went to the jury on Thursday.

A jury found Joel Hollendorfer guilty of manslaughter Thursday afternoon after being charged with first-degree murder after the deliberation process of the trial.

Under Colorado law manslaughter carries a two-to-six-year prison sentence.

Nichols disappeared in October of 2012 and a ten-year investigation began just days after her disappearance.

Paul and Julia Nichols, Kara's parents, said they were devastated by the verdict in a news conference Thursday night. They said they were expecting the jury to convict Hollendorfer of first-degree murder.

"He is a cold-blooded killer," said Paul Nichols. "We are devastated at this verdict. Absolutely devastated. Dumbfounded. We do not understand it."

"We are so beyond disappointed in this judicial system. He will be out on the streets most likely and all I can say is that's a tragedy for Colorado Springs," said Julia Nichols.

Autumn Hopfe, Kara's friend, said this is not the verdict that Kara deserved.

"Joel is a murderer and it should not be described as anything else. Cut and dry. He is a murderer. He took someone's life, he had the intent to do it.

Investigators singled out Joel Hollendorfer as a primary suspect of interest in Nichols' disappearance citing Nichols' last cellphone calls made to Hollendorfer before her disappearance.

The investigation would come close to discovering Nichols' body in 2014 after detectives tracked her final known to an area that eventually would be located at a property on Burgess Road in the Black Forest listed to Hollendorfer's parents.

A search warrant and search of the grounds with cadaver dogs was done in 2014 but ultimately no excavation was done as Betty Hollendorfer, Joel's mother, stated the family had buried multiple horses and animals on the property since 1985.

A development in the search for Kara Nichols came in February of 2022 when the former wife of Hollendorfer, Kristina Hollendorfer spoke with FBI Agents about the case, telling them Joel Hollendorfer had allegedly confessed to her about accidentally killing an escort and buried her in an old horse grave on his parent's property.

Following this interview, Joel Hollendorfer was arrested on an unrelated charge. During this time investigators asked Hollendorfer to again identify all the spots where animals were buried on his parent's property. When asked about a previous spot identified during the search investigators said he told them it was, a "dry patch with a high spot" but that nothing was buried there.

Investigators would go back to interview Hollendorfer's mom where she reportedly described the same spot as being the burial site of her favorite horse "Milo."

Authorities began searching Hollendorfer's parent's property again on February 3rd, 2022 following the obtainment of a search warrant.

During the search of the spot identified by Hollendofer's mom as "Milo's" grave, they found a body that would later be confirmed to be Kara Nichols.

Joel Hollendorfer was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence on February 9th, 2022.

Hollendorfer waived his right to a speedy trial in February of last year.

A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled. Felony manslaughter is a class four felony which typically carries a sentence of up to six years in prison. Hollendorfer is set to appear in court on July 24 at 1:30 p.m. for a habitual criminal hearing. This could have an impact on the severity of his sentence.

Watch KOAA News5 on your time, anytime with our free streaming app available for your Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Android TV. Just search KOAA News5, download and start watching.