COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (TCD) -- A 47-year-old man was sentenced to over two decades in prison for killing a 19-year-old escort in 2012.
The Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office released a statement Aug. 31 announcing the judge’s decision to sentence Joel Hollendorfer to 24 years behind bars in the death of Kara Nichols. He was convicted of manslaughter in June, though he was charged with first-degree murder, according to KOAA-TV.
District Attorney Michael Allen wrote in the statement, "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."
On Oct. 14, 2012, Nichols' father reported her missing to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and said Nichols’ brother last spoke to her five days earlier when she said she was heading to Denver from Colorado Springs. Her brother reportedly tried to contact her, but she never picked up the phone and it went to voicemail, KOAA reports.
Nichols' brother went to her apartment and found several personal items, including her laptop and phone charger, inside.
Investigators learned Nichols was working as an escort and placed an ad Oct. 9, 2012, and attached a phone number. She called someone eight times within about an hour between 9:58 p.m. and 11:08 p.m. According to KOAA, Hollendorfer spoke with detectives and he said he contacted Nichols on Oct. 9, but they never met.
Phone records, however, place Nichols' phone near Hollendorfer’s parents' house. Detectives searched the parents' property in 2014, and his mother reportedly said she buried horses and other animals in the yard. A cadaver dog reportedly found what looked like a grave, but there was nothing in the ground.
Almost exactly two years after she went missing, Hollendorfer told detectives again he spoke with Nichols the night she disappeared and they planned to meet at a certain location, but they never did. KOAA reports Hollendorfer believed his drug use and meetings with escorts caused his marriage to fail.
Hollendorfer’s ex-wife initially would not speak with investigators, but in 2022, she told FBI agents Hollendorfer confessed to killing an escort in 2012 and burying her body at his parents' house in a horse grave.
Law enforcement officials obtained a search warrant for the property, and on Feb. 3, 2022, detectives excavated a horse grave and discovered human remains inside what looked like a garbage bag.
At the sentencing, Chief Judge William Bain told Hollendorfer he knew Nichols "was addicted to heroin and you gave it to her, used her body in a vile way, put hands around her neck, and rendered her unconscious."
Nichols' mother told KOAA after the sentencing the justice system "failed my daughter to a large extent."
Be sure to watch the Crime Watch Daily episode about Kara Nichols' case above.