"The dead won't bother you, it's the living you have to worry about."
-John Wayne Gacy
It was the 21st of June 1996. A Friday. Twenty year old Karina Holmer was meeting friends for a night out in the Theatre District in Boston, United States. Karina had only been in Boston for a few months. She arrived in March to work as an au pair.
Karina was from Skillingaryd, about 150 miles southwest of Stockholm, in Sweden. Even as a child, Karina was adventurous and loved to be outdoors and she dreamed of being able to travel as soon as she was old enough. That dream came true when Karina won US$1500 on a lottery scratch card in Sweden. It meant that she could afford to travel to the United States to look for work as an au pair.
When she arrived in the United States, she got a job as an au pair with a family who lived in a wealthy area in Dover, about 15 miles outside of Boston.
Frank Rapp and his wife Susan Nichter had two children. Their son was in first grade and their daughter was a toddler. It was Karina's job to look after them and to clean the house during the week. Susan was a successful artist and a professor at a local university. She stayed in the family home which was a condo in suburban Dover. Frank was a commercial photographer and during the week he worked in a loft he owned in South Boston. Every Friday, he would return home for the weekend to Dover to be with his family and he allowed Karina to stay in the loft on weekends. That gave Karina some space to explore the area, shop and head out with friends.
That Friday was no different. Frank was due to head to Dover to the family home and Karina would stay in the loft. It was normal for her to use the loft as a meeting place for friends. It was a good base for them to meet as it was near bars and clubs. They all met there before heading to a nearby bar on the 21st of June.
Karina and her friends stayed at the loft for a while and then made their way to Club Zanzibar, a night spot in the Theatre District. It was an area that was popular with au pairs and visitors from Europe. Karina and her friends were underage but they used fake ID to gain access into the club. That night, plenty of people saw Karina. She was outgoing and beautiful with blonde hair and pale skin. She liked to have fun when out and meet new people. That night was special for her as it reminded her of home. She was celebrating the Summer Solstice, the biggest holiday in Sweden, and the longest day of the year. Karina chatted, drank, danced and sang at the club. She had a great night out but it was to be her last.
On the 23rd of June 1996, a homeless man was searching for food and drink in a dumpster in the Fenway and Back Bay area. The man ripped open a trash bag and saw a woman's arm. He immediately reported it to the police. Police discovered that the upper half of a female body was in the trash bag. The lower half of the body was not in the dumpster. The body had been mutilated.
Dumpster where Karina's remains were found
The discovery featured on the news and police received a call from Frank and Susan. They informed police that Karina was missing, her friends told them that she had not returned to the loft after the night out on the Friday night. Police confirmed that the body found belonged to Karina.
The distance between Zanzibar and where Karina's remains were found was a straight route, 1.3 miles down Boylston Street. She had been strangled to death with some type of ligature, there were rope marks on her neck. She was then dismembered. Her body was cut in a way that required only her spine to be cut through, at the middle of her torso, right below her ribs and above her pelvis. Police believed that a saw was used. Her body had then been cleaned. There were no signs of a struggle.
A partial fingerprint was found on the bag.
Karina Holmer at Zanzibar
The investigation into Karina's last known movements proved to be difficult. Even though many people saw her the night she was last seen, which was the night of the 21st of June, many had been drinking which resulted in contradictory statements. Due to that, it is not clear exactly what happened to Karina after she left Zanzibar that night.
The friends that Karina went to the club with left before her. Two of them left with men they met and a third friend was so drunk that she passed out and then afterwards left with a bouncer. A few witnesses remembered seeing Karina inside the club and she appeared to be intoxicated. Others saw her outside the club talking to different people. Accounts from people there included sightings of her dancing with a homeless man, talking to a man and his white dog who were both wearing matching Superman tops and walking up Tremont street outside of Zanzibar . That was where her body was later found. Another person believed they saw her getting into a car and someone else believed she left with a man to go to a party.
What seems to be clear is that Karina left Zanzibar and was in the large alley outside it with hundreds of other partygoers. Zanzibar shared the alley with many other clubs so at closing time, people would leave the clubs and all end up in the alley , trying to decide where to go or what to do next. It was around 3am. Karina tried to reenter but was refused as the club was closing. Where she went after that is not clear and people believed they saw her in different areas and talking to different people.
Police began their investigation. They did not know where Karina was murdered so they did not have a crime scene. That made things difficult for them as there was a lack of evidence. They searched countless apartments near the club and near to where the remains were found.
A few people were questioned in relation to Karina's murder. But nobody was arrested or charged.
Police questioned Frank. They wanted to try to find out what had made Karina want to cut her trip short. She was due to return home in August. She wrote a letter to her friend, Ulrika Svensson, and told her that something terrible had happened. She did not say what had happened, she told her she would tell her when she got home. Karina's older sister, Johanna Holmer, said that Karina had not mentioned anything to her about any incident that may have happened. She just told her that she wanted to return home earlier than planned.
Police later searched Frank and Susan's home in Dover. Their dumpster, which they shared with a few neighbors, went on fire the day after Karina's remains were found. Ashes from the trash were sent to Boston Police for analysis but there was no sign of any remains or blood.
Police spoke to the man that some believed they saw Karina speak to outside the club. He was there that night walking his dog. He had a white dog and they both wore matching Superman tops. They saw him on surveillance footage. However police did not believe he was involved at that time as he was stopped by police that same night for a driving offense and they believed the timeline meant that he would not have had time to murder and dispose of remains. A year later, he was found dead in his sister's house with neck wounds and it was ruled a suicide. They also spoke to a musician who lived in the area but nothing connected him to Karina's murder.
At the time of her murder, Karina was dating a police officer. It was determined by investigators that he had an alibi as he was away that weekend on vacation.
For Karina's case to be solved, somebody needs to talk. Somebody knows something. The area where Karina was after the club was a busy area with a lot of people yet there are contradictory accounts of what Karina did and who she spoke to after she left the club that night. Swabs of Karina's mouth and fingernails revealed nothing and no match was found for the fingerprint found on the bag where her remains were found. The rest of Karina's body was never found. A new and thorough investigation is needed. Everyone who was questioned needs to be looked at again and their alibis and timelines confirmed.
Updated in Karina Holmer case 2020- this case still remains unsolved.
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"But I'm a woman, and as the great poet so cleverly wrote, hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. Consider me your personal hell."
"Trust your hunches. They're usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level."
-Dr Joyce Brothers
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