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Family of a 19-year-old murdered in southern Colorado 10 years ago speak out for the first time

Kara Nichols's family and friends have continued asking for justice for her on Facebook.
Posted at 1:28 PM, Nov 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-03 22:42:59-04

EL PASO COUNTY — On Thursday, the family of 19-year-old Kara Nichols, the woman who detectives believe was murdered in 2012, attended court for the first time.

"There's dread...I don't want to hear what's about to come, but then there's hope that there will be justice for my daughter, for God sakes, justice," said Paul Nichols, Kara's father, reflecting on how it felt to be in the courtroom.

Family members flew in from Chicago and Texas to attend the Preliminary Hearing for the man accused of killing Nichols, 46-year-old Joel Hollendorfer.

Kara's Aunt described the time that passed before her niece's remains were found "Ten years of torture and trauma."

After hours of testimony, the judge denied bail for Hollendorfer.

"This is a gentleman that has been out on the streets in Colorado Springs for 10 years, putting the community at risk. This man never should get out of prison," said Paul.

Detectives believe Hollendorfer met Nichols for escort services and strangled her during their encounter. They believe he then buried her in trash bags on top of a horse's grave on his parents' property in Black Forest.

Multiple employees with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office (EPSO) took the stand.

The Defense continued to bring up Kara's history with substance use, which her family has admitted. Her mother, Julia Nichols, wants people in Colorado Springs to remember her daughter by more than the decisions she made while struggling.

"I hope that people remember Kara for the person she was, the child, the teenager, the daughter, the friend, the wonderful young woman that we knew her to be who was raised here," said Julia.

Another friend of Kara's called her a "caring person" and went on to say, "We all make mistakes and we all have bad experiences in life, but those bad experiences can't define us."

One Detective described the FBI's interview with Hollendorfer's ex-wife in January 2022, where they say she admitted Hollendorfer told her hem"accidentally" strangled an escort during sex.

"To hear the defense try to defend this gentlemen; it was very difficult. I had a hard time not going to tears," said Paul.

Law enforcement was not able to make contact with Hollendorfer's ex-wife before January 2022.

After the FBI's interview, EPSO excavated the property in Black Forest and recovered remains which were eventually determined to be Nichols by the El Paso County Coroner's Office.

A former sworn officer who was assigned the case in 2013 testified that, prior to her assignment, the investigation was not conducted in the manner she would have conducted it.

The property in Black Forest was searched in 2014, but not excavated, although anomalies were detected. Investigators were told a number of horses were buried on the property, and the ground penetrating radar cannot identify the differences in horse graves or human graves.

Nichols's family members say they will continue to appear at future court proceedings.

Hollendorefer's plea hearing is scheduled for January 11, 2023 at 11:00 a.m.

Hollendorfer's charges were previously upgraded from 2nd Degree Murder to 1st Degree Murder.

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