CO v. Joel Hollendorfer: Teen Escort Murder Trial

Posted at 2:03 PM, August 31, 2023 and last updated 2:17 PM, August 31, 2023


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Court TV) – A Colorado man convicted of manslaughter more than 10 years after the victim disappeared was sentenced to serve 24 years in prison.

Joel Hollendorfer, 47, was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence in the death of Kara Nichols, who was last seen in October 2012. He was convicted on a lesser charge of manslaughter.

Booking photo of Joel Hollendorfer

Joel Hollendorfer (El Paso County Sheriff’s Office)

Kara was 19 when her father reported her missing on Oct. 14, 2012. Her brother, Terry, last reported talking to her on Oct. 9 at 11:45 p.m. The two typically spoke daily, but Terry reported to detectives that when he tried contacting her on Oct. 10 and after, his calls went directly to voicemail.

Terry told detectives that he had gone to his sister’s home on Oct. 11 and spoke with her roommates, who reported last seeing her on Oct. 9, when she said she was going to Denver. Terry noted that her cell phone charger, laptop and “other necessities” were left behind at the house.

In an arrest affidavit obtained by Court TV, a detective assigned to investigate the case in Feb. 2013 determined that Kara had been working as an escort. They found an ad that had presumably been posted by her.

Detectives found that Kara’s phone had been in contact with another number eight times on Oct. 9 between 9:58 p.m. and 11:08 p.m. When police called the phone number and left a message asking the number’s owner to contact them in May 2013, they soon heard from Joel Hollendorfer.

Hollendorfer admitted that the phone number was his and that he had been looking for an escort on that night, but said that he never wound up meeting Kara.

Cell phone data obtained by detectives allowed them to trace the movements of Kara’s phone, which lined up directly with a route that Hollendorfer was known to take. The last known address where Kara’s phone had a signal was the address listed by Hollendorfer with the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles.

The property, owned by his parents, was searched in 2014, but no areas were excavated.

Missing person poster with photo of Kara Nichols from 2012.

On Feb. 8, 2022, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office confirmed they had found the body of 19-year-old Kara Nichols who went missing in 2012. (KOAA)

When police interviewed Hollendorfer on Oct. 21, 2014, he confirmed that he had been talking and texting with Kara, but again denied meeting her. He did tell detectives he “was deep into escorts and drugs” at that time. He also said that his involvement with escorts led to the downfall of his marriage.

Police were unable to locate or speak to Hollendorfer’s ex-wife until 2022 when she spoke to both the FBI and detectives in Colorado. At that point, she told detectives that her ex-husband had made a disturbing confession to her in 2014.

“She related Joel told her he hired an escort and during sex with her in his car he accidentally strangled her until she died. Joel then transported her to his parent’s property where he buried her on an old horse grave with plastic bags and lime.”

On Feb. 7, 2022, Hollendorfer was arrested on an unrelated warrant. During a police interview, he again denied meeting Kara.

After Hollendorfer’s arrest, another search of his parents’ property was performed. During this search, police found black plastic believed to be a garbage bag buried approximately three feet deep. In addition to the bag, a human remains were found, police said.