Who killed Karina Holmer? And where’s the lower half of her torso?

Who Killed Karina Holmer? And Where's The Lower Half Of Her Torso?
Karina Holmer © Flickr

Karina Holmer’s murder is one of the most brutal and intriguing cases in US crime history, summed up by one Boston Globe headline writer as “half a body in a dumpster.”

Karina Holmer
© The Boston Globe

However, neither the lower half of Karina Holmer’s torso nor the murderer have ever been traced, and the case has remained unsolved to this day.

The Unsolved Murder Of Karina Holmer

Who Killed Karina Holmer? And Where's The Lower Half Of Her Torso?
Karina Holmer © Flickr

Karina won around $1500 with a lottery ticket in Sweden and decided to use the money to go to the United States. The 19-year-old secured a job as an au pair in Boston and spent her weekends partying with new friends in downtown Boston.

  • Last Seen: June 21, 1996, Late Friday night.
  • Location: The Alley bar, 3 a.m., outside of the Zanzibar. May have also been spotted walking up Tremont Street, between Boylston and Park Street, in Boston.
  • Circumstances: Karina went out dancing with friends at a nightclub in the Theater District, reportedly becoming quite drunk. Unable to locate her friends, she stepped outside and promptly disappeared.
  • Body found: The top half of Karina’s torso was found in a trash bin behind an apartment building at 1091 Boylston Street that Sunday.

Autopsy Report

According to Karina Holmer’s autopsy, she was strangled to death at about nine o’clock in the morning, then sawed in half at the waist. Her purse was missing, along with her Nokia cell phone.

Theories From The Witnesses In Karina Holmer’s Murder Case

Investigators at the dumpster in which half of Karina’s body was found.
Investigators at the dumpster in which they found a plastic bag. Stuffed inside the bag was the dismembered top half of Karina’s body.

It was reported that Karina Holmer was intoxicated, and her friends had left her by herself. Police reports indicate that she was last seen walking up Tremont Street between Bolyston and Park Streets. Tracing the final hours of her life is very difficult and strange. Eventually, more than 300 witnesses were interviewed in the case by police, including Karina’s employer, but the mystery of her demise remains unsolved.

  • Some people said she was last seen singing and dancing with a homeless man in the streets near the club.
  • Others reported she got into various vehicles in the wee hours after the club closed.
  • A man and his dog who reportedly cruised around wearing matching Superman shirts on weekend nights was interviewed by police.
  • She was also seen talking to a spirited nocturnal neighbourhood person that morning, who eventually committed suicide.
  • Apart from these, Karina had dated a Boston Police Officer just before her disappearance, which added intrigue to the case.

The greatest obstacle in the investigation is the absence of a crime scene; the only physical evidence is a partial fingerprint found in the garbage bag that her upper body was discovered in, and the rope marks on her neck which caused her strangulation.

The Suspects

Herb Whitten, the man previously mentioned with the dog and the Superman T-shirt, was briefly considered as a suspect. However, Whitten had a strong alibi; he had been driving back home to Andover after he had been seen speaking to Karina. While driving, he had gotten a speeding ticket. It did not fit into the timeline of Karina’s murder that he would return home, go back to Boylston Place and then kidnap and kill Karina, then dismember and dump her body. A year later and Karina’s murder, Whitten committed suicide.

Karina’s employers, Frank Rapp and Susan Nichter, were also investigated as suspects. Other young nannies knew of Frank Rapp and referred to him as ‘creepy’. Neither had an alibi for the night Karina was murdered, and the following Monday police were called to the home of Frank and Susan due to a fire which had started in a dumpster on their property. The ashes from the fire were tested for any traces of human remains but none were found. Though, it’s pretty unlikely that Frank and Susan would be involved in Karina’s murder; if they wanted her dead for some reason, why would they wait until she was out clubbing in Boston when she was at their home every day during the week? It seems pretty far-fetched, isn’t it?

John Zewizz, an industrial music musician, was also considered to be a suspect. Zewizz lived not far from where Karina’s body was found. At the time of her murder and during the subsequent investigation, Zewizz’s heroin addiction was becoming increasingly worse. Also, the music and performances of Zewizz’s band Sleep Chamber were controversial, given the themes of S&M and bondage. No charges in the murder of Karina Holmer were ever brought, however.

The Killer Remains Unidentified

Karina Holmer at Zanzibar
Karina at Zanzibar

Karina Holmer had been working for four months as an au pair for Frank Rapp and Susan Nichter, a Dover couple with two children. She was as comfortable in flannel shirts and jeans as weekend party outfits. When Karina went out that evening of June 1996, she was celebrating the Summer Solstice, the biggest holiday in Sweden, and the longest day of the year. But it would become the darkest day of her young life.

She was brutally murdered, and her remains were found in the trash off Boylston Street, when a homeless man rummaging through a dumpster found the upper part of her body. After that, an extensive investigation has been conducted, where everyone puts their own theory but the killer remains unidentified. Now, it is one in a long line of cases in Boston that have gone cold, spanning decades — there are nearly 1,000 unsolved homicides in the city.

The Haunting Letters: Karina Holmer Wrote To Her Friends

Karina Holmer had secrets and shortly before her death she wrote a letter to her friend in Sweden and shared something that would forever haunt those who learn about it.

She said she was tired of the housework involved in her job as nanny for a Dover couple’s two young children. “There is always so much cleaning and I think I am stressed all the time. So this is not exactly what I thought it would be,” she wrote to one of her friends, Charlotte Sandberg.

More ominously, she wrote to her another friend, Svensson: “Something terrible has happened. I’ll reveal more when I get home.”

Final Words

Karina Holmer was a friendly, ambitious Swedish girl, who had a love of life. At her funeral in Sweden, friends and family wore colourful clothing to commemorate her joyful personality. It is a great tragedy that she was lost at such a young age, and in such a sad way, and her demise still haunts people.

Karina wrote a poem in 1992 that was entitled “Life.” She stated in part, “The richest gift you ever got is LIFE. Don’t throw that away or ever step on it. But hold it high in your hands.”

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