*UPDATE: Human remains located in the 6700 block of Burgess Road have been tentatively identified as belong to Kara Nichols. A 46-year-old man has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder and tampering with evidence.*
Kara Nichols was born on May 20, 1993 to parents Paul and Julia Nichols. Growing up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, she lived with them, along with her older brother and younger sister.
Kara was described as having a great sense of humour and a loving disposition. A very social person, she was well-spoken and regularly kept in contact with friends and family. She also followed an interest in art, enrolling in private lessons. She was known to be a talented artist who won several community and school competitions, and she loved drawing detailed sketches of models in beautiful gowns and dresses.
According to Kara’s mother, the young girl began to rebel during her teenage years. When she was 13 years old, she was arrested for shoplifting and underwent juvenile adjudication, which resulted in a sentence of community service. When she was 16 years old, she began to use drugs, primarily heroin.
During her early high school years, Kara attended Rampart High School. During her sophomore year, her dog died, which caused her to enter a deep depression, something her parents sought counselling for. However, Kara didn’t like taking the pills prescribed to her, due to their strong side effects.
To help Kara, her family decided to enrol her in different alternative schools, with mixed results. She ended up graduating from Life Skills of Colorado Springs, which let her work at her own pace. Upon graduating, she got a waitressing job and decided to pursue a career in modelling.
During the summer of 2012, the Nichols family moved to Chicago. While in the city, Kara continued to use drugs, which led her family to enrol her in a drug treatment program. However, she was kicked out because she failed to follow the rules.
Not long after, Kara decided to return to Colorado Springs, against her parents’ wishes. She eventually moved into a house with three men, something her mother was initially apprehensive about, but eventually became comfortable with, as the three appeared harmless. When she moved back to the area, she looked into getting her old waitressing job back and continued her modelling work, creating a profile on the Model Mayhem website. However, despite this, she began to experience financial problems, eventually falling behind on rent and having to borrow food from her roommates.
LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:
On October 9, 2012, Kara told one of her roommates that a friend was coming to pick her up and drive her to a modelling gig. As she didn’t have a driver’s license, she had to get rides with others. Minutes later, her roommate saw a dark sedan pulling away from the building and assumed her ride had arrived to pick her up.
Over the course of October 10 and 11, Kara’s brother, who lived not too far from her, tried to get in contact with her over phone and text. However, he received no response to his messages, which struck him as odd, as she was in contact with him nearly every day.
On October 12, growing more concerned with each passing day, her brother contacted the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to report his sister as missing, where he was told that, given Kara’s age, she was allowed to be out of contact with her family for as long as she wished.
Kara’s brother and friends alerted her parents to the fact she hadn’t been active on social media or used her phone since around October 9. Hearing this, they flew to Colorado Springs to search for their missing daughter.
Upon arriving at Kara’s house, they found her laptop, professional makeup case, purse, ID, $300 in cash and clothes all still in her room. To everyone, it appeared as though she’d planned on returning home after her modelling job. Worried, her parents pressured the cops to take another look into her disappearance.
Upon opening an investigation into Kara’s disappearance, the police appealed to the public for help.
Kara’s parents gave investigators permission to look through her cellphone records. They noticed that her last text message was sent around 11:45pm on October 9 and that the cellphone had been travelling north to Denver that night, based off cellular tower pings. However, it had been inactive ever since, and police are unsure if it lost battery, got lost or had been damaged.
A large group of Kara’s friends helped her family search for her and passed out flyers throughout Colorado Springs and Denver.
During the initial stages of the search, Julia and Paul learnt their daughter had been working as a prostitute over the past two years, ever since she was 17 years old, and that she was doing so in order to support her drug habit. They also discovered that some of her modelling jobs had been covers for escort services. At first, they were reluctant to make this information public, worried it might skew the public’s perception of Kara, but they decided to make it known in the hopes it would generate new leads.
Upon the release of this information about Kara, news outlets began to cancel interviews with the Nichols and coverage of her disappearance began to wane.
In November 2012, police announced they wanted to speak with two women who are believed to have last been seen with Kara. Both had brown-hair, and the one was seen in Kara’s company on the day she went missing. While not a suspect, she is considered a person of interest, and police have stated they want to know how the pair parted on October 9. The second woman is believed to have been an associate of Kara’s. However, the nature and frequency of their contact remains unknown.
In the hopes someone who knew one or both of the women would come forward, an image of one of them was released to the public, resulting in numerous leads being called in. While intensive searches were conducted with the help of outside units, both women have never been found. It’s believed someone with knowledge of the modelling community could have information about Kara or the two mystery women.
That same month, images of Kara showed up on an escort site run out of Las Vegas. However, investigators were able to prove that Kara was not involved in the posting and that the escort service had pulled her images off of the internet.
Since the beginning of the investigation, the National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation has aided the Nichols family in looking for Kara.
In spring 2013, a business owner from Colorado Springs came forward to say he’d seen Kara for weeks after she’d initially vanished. He claimed he’d left two voicemails with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, one in December 2012 and another in early May, but hadn’t received a response. The Sheriff’s Office claims they never received the messages, and when asked what phone line he’d called into, the witness was unable to say.
According to business owner, he’d seen Kara from late October 2012 to December 2012 with a scruffy-looking man who was about 6′ tall. He was normally in the area of Fillmore Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, around a nearby park and businesses. The woman believed to be Kara looked to be scared, like the man was making her do things she didn’t want to do, and the witness at one time had told the man to leave her alone upon seeing him push the woman into a fence.
The tip was followed up on and police were able to locate the man. However, it was learnt that the woman seen with him was his then-girlfriend and not Kara.
In July 2013, Kara’s parents announced a $1,000 reward for information leading directly to her whereabouts.
In the fall of 2013, a college student studying criminal justice decided to look into Kara’s case. She drove to Denver and spoke with numerous drug addicts and homeless people, who said they’d seen a girl resembling Kara at a non-profit business that exchanges syringes and needles for those addicted to drugs. However, when this lead was investigated, the woman turned out not to be the missing woman.
In May 2014, Deputy Sheriff Cliff Porter, who was working the case, admitted in a publicly-released recording that he’d cut corners in regards to the investigation. He admitted to spending very little time working on the case and said he’d ignored clues that could have been vital at the beginning.
Upon hearing this, the Nichols family released a statement, sharing how upset the recording had made them. They also questioned how the investigation had played out, saying that tips and leads had gone unnoticed and that no forensic investigations had been performed. They also criticized the Sheriff Office’s work with the cellphone records, and claimed Deputy Sheriff Porter had told them not to speak with the media or post flyers.
After the release of the recording, the Nichols family decided to take matters into their own hands with the creation of the Help Us Find Kara Nichols Facebook page. Through this, they received a tip from someone who said Kara was being trafficked to men in Long Island. However, police were unable to locate her and it’s currently unknown if the tip was a hoax.
In May 2016, a grand jury indictment was handed down to former sheriff Terry Maketa and members of his staff in regards to allegations of corruption that include witness tampering, kidnapping and extortion. This led Kara’s mother to question if her daughter’s case had ever properly been handled.
In June 2018, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released an age-progression photo of Kara, showing what she would look like 25 years old.
Police are currently keeping tight-lipped about the investigation, as it’s still active. Their theories over what happened to Kara have changed over the years and ranged from a belief that she died by suicide or drug overdose, to her purposely avoiding her family. However, they currently believe foul play to be involved in her disappearance.
1) One theory in the case suggests that Kara was murdered by her pimp. A tip was sent into the National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation, which said the missing woman had owed her pimp money and, as a result, he abducted and killed her, burying her along a stretch of road in Castle Rock, Colorado, where as many as 10 bodies are said to be buried.
Given the area is 30 miles from Denver and is located along the route she would have taken, her parents believe this to be a real possibility. This is further supported by tips which say Kara had died years ago, not long after she initially went missing.
2) Police are currently working on the theory that Kara was forced into human trafficking and fell prey to abduction due to her modelling jobs. According to investigators, there is a subculture of modelling-business fronts that often involve illegal drugs and prostitution. Her parents also feel human trafficking played a role in their daughter’s disappearance.
Kara’s profile on Model Mayhem has since been taken down.
Kara’s parents have stated they feel guilty about not being able to get Kara away from the lifestyle she was participating in. While they believe there is a possibility their daughter is dead, they hope to one day have her body returned to them.
CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:
Kara Nichols went missing from the 6700 block of Mission Road in Colorado Springs, Colorado on October 9, 2012. She was en route to Denver, Colorado. She was 19 years old and was last seen wearing a hooded sweatshirt, dark-coloured jeans, white DC tennis shoes and hot pink ear gauges. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5’8″ and weighed approximately 115 pounds. She has bleached blonde hair and green eyes, and has two tattoos, one of a marijuana leaf on her right ankle and one of a spaceman on her left wrist. She also has the following piercings: one on her back, one on her naval, gauged ears and a Monroe piercing above the right side of her lip. She may be suffering from bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder.
Currently, her case is classified as endangered missing. If alive, she would be 25 years old.
If you have any information regarding the case, you can contact the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at either 719-520-7125 or 719-390-5555. Tips can also be called in to Colorado Springs Crime Stoppers at 719-634-7867 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image Credit: Facebook