COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Years before Joel Hollendorfer was arrested and charged with murder for the killing of 19-year-old Kara Nichols, he confessed to his parents that he killed the teen. That's according to new court documents released Thursday to KRDO.
Hollendorfer is in custody for murder in connection with Nichols' death and disappearance from 2012.
According to an affidavit obtained by KRDO, detectives who were investigating Nichols' disappearance in 2012 found online ads appearing to show Nichols as an "escort." It's not clear if Nichols herself posted the ad, but detectives wrote that the advertisement "showed a picture of Kara Nichols wearing lingerie, advertising she is 'Sexy New Blonde in Town!" The advertisement also had a cell phone number, which detectives used to get her call records.
Cell phone data showed that Nichols had been in contact with a number eight times on Oct. 9, 2012, between 9:58 p.m. and 11:08 p.m. Investigators called the number and left a voicemail on May 7, 2013, and they got a call back the next day from Joel Hollendorfer. Court records say a detective told Joel they were investigating a missing person's case and that his number was on her phone the night she went missing.
According to the affidavit, Hollendorfer told detectives that he "answered an ad for a girl" and said they texted and spoke several times that night. Hollendorfer claimed that he didn't meet Nichols on Oct. 9 because "he was looking for an 'incall' and [Nichols] only did 'outcalls.'"
But investigators were able to get location data from Nichols' phone, which showed her leaving her home and traveling along a route that ended near Burgess Road in Black Forest. That's the same area where Hollendorfer was listed as residing, and the owners of the property were listed as Betty and John Hollendorfer, Joel's parents.
Investigators searched the property with K-9 units and tools to detect human remains, but ultimately nothing was found on the property. Detectives interviewed Betty Hollendorfer, and she said investigators should search an area across the street. When a search was conducted there, no human remains were discovered.
During another interview with Joel Hollendorfer in 2014, he again admitted that he wanted to meet up with her and said they were supposed to meet at a gas station near Galley Road and Powers Boulevard. He also admitted to detectives that "he had been involved with escorts many times which is generally why his marriage ended," according to the affidavit.
A break in the case came in early February 2022, when detectives were able to interview a family member who revealed the crucial confession. According to court records, a family member of Hollendorfer's told detectives that after Hollendorfer's father died, he admitted to her that he "accidentally killed an escort he hired."
The family member told detectives, according to the affidavit: "around the time of John's death, Joel asked her to go for a ride with him in his new truck. She said during that ride Joel told her he ... hired an escort and during sex with her in his car, he accidentally strangled her until she died." The family member said Hollendorfer confessed to burying the victim's body at his parents' property.
According to the family member, Hollendorfer also said "he felt responsible for his father's death as he had told his parents about this." Obituary records say John died in November 2014.
On Feb. 7, 2022, Hollendorfer was taken into custody on unrelated charges and interviewed again about Nichols' disappearance. He denied ever meeting Nichols, but investigators showed him photos of the initial search when crews found areas that had been dug up. One specific spot, called "GPR Site 03," was pointed out to Hollendorfer, and he said nothing was buried there. Betty Hollendorfer was asked to identify the spots, and she said "GPR Site 03" was where her favorite horse was buried.
Days after that interview with the family member and nearly 10 years after Nichols' disappearance, a search crew again descended on the Hollendorfer property in Black Forest.
This time, remains were found. Investigators found black plastic about three feet underground near "GPR Site 03."
An autopsy positively identified the victim as Nichols.
Investigators believe that Hollendorfer "arranged to pick up Kara near her Mission Road address," and that she died during their encounter.
While the criminal case against Hollendorfer is still ongoing, Nichols' family wants people to remember Kara as a "talented, smart, very worldly teenager. She's somebody that mattered then just as much as she does today."
"When you're victimized, no matter what type of genre of criminal activity, it doesn't matter what you were doing, how you were living, any of that should play a factor it should be about that she mattered," said Michelle Bart, a spokesperson for Nichols' family. "She somebody's daughter, somebody's sister, many friends loved her."