Missing Colo. Model Kara Nichols Found Buried in Horse Grave Nearly a Decade After She Vanished

Police contend Joel Hollendorfer's ex-wife was instrumental in his arrest

Kara Nichols
Kara Nichols. Photo: Justice for Kara Nichols Facebook

Authorities in Colorado have found the remains of an aspiring model who vanished back in 2012, which police say were placed there by a 46-year-old man now charged with her murder.

On Tuesday, police announced the arrest of Joel Hollendorfer for the second-degree murder of 19-year-old Kara Nichols.

In addition, Hollendorfer faces an evidence tampering charge, according to a statement from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

Nichols was last seen by roommates on October 9, 2012 and was reported missing five days later.

Her remains were found on Monday in a garbage bag that had been buried atop a horse grave on the farm Hollendorfer's parents own.

A positive identification was made on Wednesday.

An arrest affidavit obtained by PEOPLE alleges Nichols, who wanted to be a model, had been working as an escort at the time of her disappearance.

Kara Nichols
Kara Nichols. Justice for Kara Nichols Facebook

Investigators allege in the affidavit that Nichols' phone records revealed several text conversations she'd had with Hollendorfer about meeting up for sex.

Detectives also tracked the teen's phone, which confirmed she had traveled to the area where Hollendorfer and his parents lived.

The affidavit alleges that Hollendorfer admitted talking to Nichols via text but that the two never met up.

In 2014, cadaver dogs searched the Hollendorfer property and marked a number of spots that were never excavated. However, Hollendorfer's mother, Betty Hollendorfer, told police the areas the dogs had marked were where various pets and animals has been buried, per the affidavit.

According to the affidavit, detectives interviewed Hollendorfer's ex-wife last month. She told investigators that in 2014, after Hollendorfer's father died, he allegedly told her "he hired an escort and during sex with her in his car, he accidentally strangled her until she died."

PEOPLE chose not to name the ex-wife to protect her privacy.

She allegedly said Hollendorfer told her he took Nichols' body to his parents' land, "where he buried her on an old horse grave with plastic bags and lime," affidavit.

Joel Hollendorfer
Joel Hollendorfer. EPC Sheriff's Office

The ex-wife allegedly told police Hollendorfer said he'd told his parents about the murder, and that they helped him cover it up.

On Feb. 7, police arrested Hollendorfer on an unrelated warrant. Again, under questioning, he denied ever meeting with Nichols.

Authorities excavated an area of the property where Hollendorfer's mother said her favorite horse had been buried — a spot marked by the cadaver dogs a decade earlier.

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About three feet down, police "found black plastic which is believed to be a garbage bag." They also found a hand and the rest of Nichols' remains.

Hollendorfer remains in custody on $1 million bond and will appear in court next week, where it is expected he'll be asked to enter a plea.

Information about his attorney was not available Friday.

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