Episode Twenty: What Happened to Karina Holmer?

On July 21st 1996, Swedish Au Pair Karina Holmer was murdered in Boston after a night of partying at a club called Zanzibar. She disappeared sometime after 3am and the top half of her body was found in a trash bag near Fenway by a homeless man on the morning of July 23rd. There has been a lot of speculation as to what happened to Karina, but her murder still remains unsolved to this day.

The Murder of Karina Holmer — Talk Murder With Me
Karina Holmer (Talk Murder With Me)

20-year-old Karina came over to the U.S. after winning a $1500 lottery ticket. She worked as a nanny for photographer Frank Rapp and artist/professor Susan Nichter’s children. The couple lived in Dover, MA and Karina would often spend weekends at Frank’s loft in South Boston. After four months of working as an Au Pair, Karina wrote home and said she planned to go back to Sweden. She wrote to one of her friends that ‘something terrible happened’ but would reveal it once she was home. People have speculated that whatever it was might’ve contributed to her death, and she was possibly having an affair with Frank.

The night she went missing a lot of people saw her yet no one is sure who took her. Some people saw her talking to a man named Herb Whitten and his dog, saw her dancing with a homeless man, her friends thought she left with a man to go to a party, and another account had her in a car with four men. But by 3am she was gone, and wasn’t seen until the morning of the 23rd when a homeless man found the upper half of her body in a trash bag near Fenway. Her legs were missing and never found. It’s believed that she died of strangulation and no DNA was found on her since her body was washed. Only a partial fingerprint was recovered from the trash bag and there was no match for it anywhere.

The Unsolved Murder of Karina Holmer – CryptidAntiquarian
Allegedly the dumpster where Karina was found (Cryptid Antiquarian)

So who killed Karina?

Police looked at Frank and Susan but an involvment with the murder was never proven. Though there was a fire in a dumpster in their apartment complex right after the murder but the remnants were tested for human remains and none were found.

They also looked into Karina’s ex-boyfriend, a Boston cop, but he was on Martha’s Vineyard at the time of the murder.

John Zewizz, a heroin addict and musician who lived near Zanzibar was also questioned after someone went to his house and saw he had some weird items there…like a human thigh bone. He also was never charged with anything and you can watch an interview with him talking about it here.

Antocularis: Sleep Chamber
John Zewizz (Antocularis)

There was also the man with the dog, Herb Whitten, who police ruled out because he got a speeding ticket at 3:30am. But people have wondered if he could’ve had Karina in his trunk? Coincidentally, he committed suicide a year after the murder. Could it have been a guilty conscience?

There was also a man named Greg Hummel who was a possible suspect and had gotten in trouble for assault at the time. But there’s not a ton on it, mostly speculation on WebSleuths.

And finally police looked into Eugene McCollom, who admitted to murdering an unidentified prostitute in 2000 and John Leyden in 2001. Both victims he decapitated and hid some of their remains. He’s also considered a suspect in a number of decapitations along the east coast. Kelly Ford, whose decapitated remains were found on a beach in Sandwich, MA in 2001, and Darlene Toler, a prostitute who was decapitated in Miami, FL in 1995 are both considered possible victims. But serial killer Carl ‘Charlie’ Brandt is the main suspect in the murder of Darlene Toler. You can read more about Eugene in this article from Boston Magazine.

Chelsea Jane Doe | Echoes Path
Rendering of the Chelsea Jane Doe killed by McCollom (Echoes Path)

People have compared Karina’s murder to that of the Black Dahlia that took place in Los Angeles back in 1947. Both bodies were washed, cut completely in half, and most likely killed elsewhere. You can read more about one of LA’s most infamous unsolved cases here.

Black Dahlia - Wikipedia
Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia (Wikipedia)

Though all possible leads, it’s also possible that Karina was killed by someone completely random who has evaded police all these years. Her murder remains unsolved. If for whatever reason you have any information on this case, you can submit information on the Suffolk County website through CrimeStoppers.

Plenty of sources for this case! AP News, Chilling Crimes, Legal News, The Boston Globe, Reddit, and Morbidology. And the great podcasts I listened for info too: Crime Junkie and Crime Sidekick.

Thank you all so much for listening! This season is done but I’ll be back with Season Three later in 2021. Stay safe everyone!

You can listen to the episode directly on Whooshkaa if you don’t have Spotify or Apple Podcast.

The theme song is by Kevin McLeod.

Published by Wicked Crime

Welcome to Wicked Crime, a Massachusetts True Crime podcast. What started as a pretty common interest in true crime stories blossomed into a need to tell stories from all across Massachusetts, both high profile crimes and local ones that aren't as well-known. I'm just a girl from Western Mass trying to highlight some of the cases that need to be retold in the hopes that not only someone will listen, but maybe some of these unsolved cases might get one step closer to being solved. Come on this true crime journey with me as we discover some of the most wicked crimes across Massachusetts.

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