COLORADO SPRINGS — The man convicted of manslaughter for the death of Kara Nichols in 2012 was sentenced Thursday morning in El Paso County.
The jury determined that Joel Hollendorfer will serve a 24-year sentence for reckless manslaughter with 571 days already served.
Hollendorfer was originally charged with first-degree murder in the case, yet the jury only convicted him on the lesser charge of manslaughter.
During sentencing on Thursday morning, the Nichols' family expressed disappointment in the prosecution of the case, stating their belief that the lesser conviction was the result of victim blaming by the defense. Kara's brother, Terry, characterized the defense as presenting his sister as a seasoned sex worker and a drug addict, instead of a crime victim. Terry Nichols urged the court to keep Hollendorfer "locked up" for the safety of the community.
Paul Nichols, Kara's father, said the entire case has been "a miscarriage of justice." He argued the defense claim that what happened to Kara was an accident goes against common sense. Nichols asked if it was accidental strangulation during sex, then why did Hollendorfer not try to get help for Kara after she was strangled and why was she buried on family land?
Julia Nichols, Kara’s mother, told News5 that she believes the system failed her daughter. “I know they tried very hard, but I think their hands were tied in a number of different ways. But yes, I think it has failed my daughter to a large extent,” said Julia. “It doesn't feel like justice that a person can murder another person, and just get a slap on the wrist."
Hollendorfer also showed no remorse as victim impact statements were heard, and as the sentencing was handed down.
“I declined to watch him, but from what others told me, he looked remorseless and he smiled at times,” said Julia.
Nichols’ close friends Autumn Hopfe and Erin Wyrick were also in the courtroom during sentencing and read their victim impact statement, saying Hollendorfer should be convicted of first-degree murder.
“I’m very angry. I'm sad I'm frustrated,” Hopfe told News5. “This is someone's life who has taken, at the hands of a man who is violent.”
“I still don't think that justice was served. I can only hope that he never gets out of person,” said Wyrick. “As her friend, it's just my job to make sure that her memory and her life is cherished and talked about.”
Family members clearly stated opposition to any possible parole in the future.
“This senseless crime deserves a more severe punishment than what the law can provide. We urge the Department of Corrections to uphold the entirety of the...sentence,” said DA Michael Allen following the sentencing.
Back in July, the judge in the case determined Hollendorfer was guilty of four habitual crimes that can act as sentence enhancers to the original two to four-year sentence he is facing. He faced a maximum of 24 years in prison.
Court records show Hollendorfer was also convicted of harassment and protection order violations in 2012 and 2013. Those convictions, however, cannot be considered for enhancing his sentence because they were misdemeanors.
Kara was 19 years old when she was reported missing back in 2012 by her father. 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. In June of 2023, a jury convicted Hollendorfer of manslaughter in Kara's death.
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