Who Killed Karina Holmer?

If you are asking, “Who Killed Karina Holmer?” the answer is: only the murderer knows who killed Karina Holmer.

This is a cold case. If you have information about Karina Holmer’s Murder, please call the Boston Police Homicide Unit at (617) 343-4470.

Her family deserves justice.

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Philadelphia Daily News (PA) – June 26, 1996


BOSTON – A 19-year-old Swedish woman working as an au pair for a family in a wealthy suburb was found slain in a Boston trash bin, her body severed at the waist.

Karina Holmer had apparently spent her weekends in the city and was last seen alive talking with friends at the trendy Zanzibar nightclub early Saturday, police said. Early Sunday, a man scavenging for cans discovered her remains in a black plastic trash bag behind a building not far from the club.

Only the top half of her body was found. The killer may have been trying to cover up a sex crime, police sources speaking on condition of anonymity said. Police would not say if the body was clothed.

Holmer had landed a job as a nanny in March with the family of Frank Rapp in Dover, a community of about 4,000. The family refused to speak with reporters.

Also yesterday, Dover police said they were investigating a Monday night trash bin fire about 200 feet from the condominium where Holmer worked. Three bags of evidence – including clothes, but not body parts – will be turned over to the Boston Police, Dover Sgt. Jerry Adams said.

Government and private agencies dealing with au pairs said they had no record of her.

Neighbors said they often saw Holmer playing with the two little children she had been hired to watch.

“She was friendly,” said Atabak Roushanaei. She would wave and say hello but “she was very quiet. I never saw her socializing with the neighbors.” He said she looked as if she were 16 or 17 years old.

Holmer’s father, in telephone interviews from the small town of Skillingaryd, about 150 miles southwest of Stockholm, described his daughter simply as a nice and beautiful young woman, said the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald newspapers. They did not identify him.

“Of course we know that such things can happen over there, but it’s nothing that you expect,” Holmer’s sister, Johanna, told WHDH-TV.

Generally, young foreigners seeking work as nannies are brought over on special visas and trained in child care and safety by a licensed agency.

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Cincinnati Post – June 26, 1996


BOSTON – A winning $1,500 Swedish lottery ticket gave Karina Holmer the spending money she needed to go to America. The headstrong woman had always dreamed of seeing the world.

A job as a nanny in a Boston suburb would give her that chance – for just three months.

Now, police are looking for a killer who strangled Ms. Holmer, 19, cut her body in half and threw the top part in a trash bin behind a Boston apartment building. The lower half of the body hasn’t been found.

She was last seen alive early Saturday morning, leaving the trendy Zanzibar nightclub with ”an older man,” her friends said. Another Swedish nanny who had been at the club said Ms. Holmer and the man were ”going to an after-hours party.”

”The next time I saw her was to identify her body,” the woman, who was not identified, told the Boston Globe.

A man scavenging for cans discovered Ms. Holmer’s remains early Sunday in a black plastic trash bag behind a building not far from the club.

The killer may have been trying to cover up a sex crime, said police sources, speaking on condition of anonymity. Police would not say if the body was clothed.

Ms. Holmer had landed a job as a nanny in March with the family of Frank Rapp in Dover, a wealthy community about 15 miles outside Boston.

Rapp, 43, was questioned by police, but said he had been cleared of suspicion. ”I am definitely not a suspect,” he told the Globe. ”My family is completely devastated.”

Police on Tuesday searched the Boston building where Rapp, a commercial photographer, had an office and Ms. Holmer spent her weekends.

And Dover police said Tuesday they were investigating a Monday night fire in a trash bin near the condo where the Rapps live and Ms. Holmer worked.

”Because of what happened with the nanny’s torso being found in the Dumpster,” it seemed odd, said Dover Police Sgt. Jerry Adams.

Neighbors said they often saw Ms. Holmer playing with the first-grade boy and toddler girl she had been hired to watch.

Her father, Ola Holmer, told the Boston Herald his daughter was ”a wonderful girl, a beautiful girl.”

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Philadelphia Inquirer – June 27, 1996



The murder and mutilation of a Swedish au pair is sending shock waves through the international nanny network.

Karina Holmer, 20, who had worked since March in a Boston suburb, was savagely slain and dumped in the city over the weekend in a trauma affecting parents, nannies and the agencies that place them.

“There’s no doubt that we’ll see a redoubling of efforts to train nannies” about personal security, said Betsy Weaver, publisher of Parents’ Paper, a Boston-based monthly newspaper that carries a nanny and au pair guide.

“It may be that we’ll see fewer girls from Sweden in the next few weeks,” said Bill Gertz, a spokesman for Au Pair in America, a placement agency that promotes itself as “child care with a cultural flair.”

News of the killing played on the front pages of the Swedish tabloids Expressen and Aftonbladet yesterday, and a spokesman for the Swedish Consulate in Boston said parents there were concerned.

Richard Eisenberg, an attorney whose firm specializes in health insurance for the International Nanny Association, predicted more nannies would begin carrying battery-powered, personal-protection sirens and other security devices.

The killing – so gruesome that even veteran homicide detectives were revulsed – took place after Holmer left Zanzibar, a ritzy downtown nightclub that caters to an international crowd. Among the patrons are many European au pairs, who often arrive after midnight and linger until last call at 2 a.m.

Flashing an apparently fake driver’s license, the athletically built Holmer, whose blond, shoulder-length hair was styled in a bun, passed for 21. She entered the Back Bay club on Friday evening. She was last seen early Saturday morning, laughing with friends outside the club around closing time.

Another Swedish au pair who was there has told authorities that she saw Holmer leave with “an older man” to go to an “after-hours party.”

Her torso, stuffed into a black plastic trash bag, was found Sunday afternoon in a Dumpster behind a Boston apartment building. Her legs and pelvis have not been found.

Citing preliminary autopsy results, police believe she was strangled, then cut in half at the waist. Among the evidence retrieved from the Dumpster by detectives wearing plastic gloves and face masks was a metal disk that appeared to be from a circular saw.

Police are reviewing surveillance videotapes of patrons entering and leaving the club. They have twice interviewed Frank Rapp, 43, Holmer’s employer.

Rapp, a commercial photographer, his wife, Susan Nichter, and their two children live in a quiet, neatly landscaped townhouse in Dover, a tony suburb west of Boston. He rents a studio workspace in an artist’s loft near Fort Point Channel in South Boston. He told police he let Holmer stay there occasionally on weekend nights.

Holmer came to the United States via an illegal nanny broker in Stockholm who apparently did not arrange for her to get a work visa.

“Technically, (she) was an illegal immigrant,” the broker, Tage Sundin, 46, told Expressen. According to the newspaper, Sundin has twice been convicted and fined by Swedish authorities for operating an employment agency without a permit.

After graduating from high school in the small town of Alaryd in 1994, Holmer went to school to learn the restaurant business. She worked as a waitress and a chef. After winning $1,500 in the Swedish state lottery, she flew off to Boston in March.

Police are reportedly investigating two theories about why the body was severed.

One theory has it that Holmer was forced to have sex with someone who panicked and strangled her when she threatened to report him. By disposing of the lower half of her body, the killer wanted to hide traces of semen, which could link him to the crime through DNA matching.

The other theory is that the body was simply lopped in two for easier transport and disposal.

*    *     *     *

Boston Herald – June 27, 1996

Dad won’t come to Boston

Karina Holmer’s grieving father sees no reason to come to Boston.

“What would I do there except take a look at where my daughter was found?” he said.

Right now, all he has left are memories of his bright and lovely 19-year-old daughter and questions no one will ever answer: “Why Karina?” and “Why so gruesome?”

“Anyone who hasn’t experienced this could never understand how it feels,” Ola Holmer told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet from his home in a tiny, rural village.

“Daily, you see these terrible things on the TV news,” he added. “But as long as you’re not confronted on a personal or family level, it is impossible to comprehend how it really feels. It doesn’t matter how compassionate anyone is, it’s just impossible to understand.”

The slain nanny’s older sister, Johanna Holmer, 22, said: “We must have time to try to understand what has happened. We have had a priest here who has comforted us in our sorrow.”

Since receiving the terrible news Tuesday after returning from a vacation, the Holmer family – including Karina’s two younger sisters, Christina, 15, and Jessica, 11 – have remained sequestered in their home in the tiny village of Alaryd.

“We have been offered help from a psychologist, but I think we will manage on our own,” Johanna Holmer said.

Over the last two days, most of the residents of Alaryd have come by the Holmer home to show their sympathy and support.

The family said Boston police have contacted them and have promised to keep them apprised of any progress in the investigation.

*   *    *    *

Boston Globe – June 27, 1996


Karina Holmer’s killer was a monster, but he may have been a monster for only a few, frenzied hours of murderous rage.

The Swedish au pair’s severed upper body had not been mutilated further, police sources say, which tells forensic psychologists interviewed yesterday that her killer does not fit the mold of a serial killer or sexual sadist.

Rather, the unmarked condition of the body and its unorthodox disposal in a Fenway dumpster would indicate to these specialists that Holmer’s assailant may have been a first-time killer.

But first time or not, the psychologists say, the horrific nature of the crime shows that the murderer may have a severe mental illness and probably harbors a longstanding, explosive resentment of women. Their unnerving concern: If he did it once, he could do it again.

“This could be one-time, but it’s unlikely that it’s your typical murder committed by somebody with motives that the rest of us could understand. This person is either profoundly emotionally disturbed or a sociopath,” said Craig Latham, a forensic psychologist from Wellesley.

The psychologists emphasized that their conjectures are based on limited public knowledge of the evidence, and that Holmer may have been the latest in a string of victims who include still-missing women.

But what is known about the case supports their view that this is a strikingly rare crime both in its nature and its puzzling aftermath.

Fewer than 5 percent of murder victims are mutilated, said James Alan Fox, dean of the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University. And many murderers who show some deliberation in their crime dispose of their victims’ bodies in remote locations.

Although any murder is tragic, Holmer’s mutilation is what makes this crime so morbidly riveting, observers said.

“This person didn’t feel any kind of boundaries about violating the body, particularly in such a ruthless, savage way. This suggests it just wasn’t somebody faced with a problem of disposing of the body,” Latham said.

Holmer’s upper body was discovered in the dumpster Sunday, about 36 hours after she was last seen leaving Zanzibar, a downtown nightclub. Investigators say that Holmer, 20, was strangled first, and that a saw may have been used to sever her body afterward.

“These kinds of offenses are, gratefully, rare. But because they are so stark, so violent, they take hold of our imagination and our worst fears,” said Theoharis Seghorn, a founding partner of New England Forensic Associates.

Seghorn said that such brutality is possible even in seemingly normal human beings who resort to lethal actions in desperate situations.

“In this case, you’re talking about somebody who had to cut through flesh and bone,” Seghorn said. “People are capable of all sorts of bizarre acts when they are in this sort of state. In a disassociated state, anything is possible.”

Vernon Gebreth, a New York homicide and forensic consultant, said that most severed bodies are found in congested, urban areas where a killer needs to decrease his risk of being noticed when disposing of the corpse.

Fox said, “This killer tends to be fairly cunning, careful, clever. He obviously did not panic in the wake of the crime. We’re not talking about a bizarre maniac.”

“Either it’s someone who had some relation with her . . . or we’re talking about a stranger who has a great deal of control over his behavior, who could very well have a good job and neighbors and friends, but for whom rape and murder is done for the pleasure.”

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Memphis Commercial Appeal

June 28, 1996


BOSTON – A young Swedish nanny whose upper body was found in a trash bin had confided in letters to friends weeks before her death that ”something terrible” had happened, and that she was looking forward to an early return to her small village.

Karina Holmer, 20, did not say what had happened, but told her friend, Ulrika Svensson, that she would reveal more once she was back home, the Swedish tabloid Expressen reported.

If she was unhappy, Karina did not confide in her older sister, Johanna Holmer, Johanna said Thursday. ”She had decided to come home earlier . . . because she wanted to go somewhere else to travel and to work,” Johanna said.

The upper half of Holmer’s body was found in a trash bin Sunday afternoon. The lower half had not been located as of Thursday.

In letters to Svensson and other friends, Karina Holmer 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 Charlotte Sandberg. More ominously, she wrote to Svensson: ”Something terrible has happened. I’ll reveal more when I get home.”

But Holmer showed no obvious discontent to the couple who hired her, Frank Rapp and Susan Nichter, said their attorney, Martin Weinberg.

Investigators, hampered by the absence of a crime scene and the rest of the body, said they were focusing on Zanzibar, the trendy nightclub where friends who had spent a night out with Holmer last saw her early Saturday morning.

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Expert: Mysterious Cold Case May Be Connected To Other Crimes.


Filed under Boston News

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