This Was Not Her Dream: The Murder of Karina Holmer

By: Sammy Keyes

After winning a small amount of lottery money in her home country of Sweden, Karina Holmer, 20 years old, loved travel so much, she spent her winnings on a plane ticket to Boston, Massachusetts. It was 1996, a chance to be an au pair and work for a family in the wealthier suburbs of “the HUB”, Karina gladly forked over every penny-and shortly after found herself working for a family in Dover, MA. The couple (Frank Rapp, and Susan Nichter) and their two children were extremely wealthy, as both parents were successful local artists, and children so well behaved and infatuated with their new au pair they were borderline angels, all was good at the start, isn’t it always? I mean, she would care for the children, do light housework, live in a gorgeous and safe picturesque neighborhood Monday through Friday, and then on the weekends as an added bonus on top of her earnings, she could do as she pleased at all times and was given the loft they owned, located in downtown Boston, to have to herself as they were at home in Dover.

Likeable, intelligent, and gorgeous, Karina quickly made friends with a group of other Swedish Au Pairs working in similar situations as she, and together they would party on the weekends, specifically frequenting a club (I AM SO SORRY FOR THE FLASHBACKS ABOUT TO GO DOWN) called ZANZIBAR. June 23, 1996, however, Karina would leave the bar late night, drunk and alone, running into a man named Herb Witten who was walking his dog around 3 AM in the alley way outside of the bar. Allegedly, Herb would “routinely leave his home in Andover (which is 20-30 minutes depending on route, weather, etc.) to walk his dog at this time, all the way in Boston”?? At least, that is what he told PD when questioned after Holmers body was found two days after their chat in the alley in the strangest way imaginable.

No one knows what happened from 3 AM after her chat with Herb, until a person rummaging for recyclables in the area of Fenway park found her body, stuffed in trash bags, in pieces- but pieces that had been severed with intent, washed clean of make up etc. Fully drained of blood and having marks around her neck that would indicate some form of strangulation had taken place. The only evidence of a suspect found was half a fingerprint on one of the bags, which from all I have read, was never matched with anyone. The lower half of her body was never even been located, and although odd behavior from both Frank and Herb during interviews/searches tipped off multiple cops, both men were asked for their alibis. Herb? Allegedly he was pulled over for speeding later that night, but how much later, we do not know. Where? We do not know. Frank? Well, neither he NOR his wife had a solid alibi for the time Karina is estimated to have died.

All these years have gone by, and all we know publicly that we did not know immediately then was the following:

-Two letters one to a friend, one to sister Johanna, written by Karina mentioned her wanting to come home early as “something horrible happened” but the family she worked for said nothing of concern had ever been disclosed to them regarding her wishing to leave or even so much as a change of mood.

-Herb committed suicide around a year or so after Karina’s murder. Nope, nothing to see there.

-When asking around about Frank PD found out he was seen and generally known to be “sleazy”. Over time both he and Susan became hostile and stopped cooperating with authorities, but ready for this? The Monday Karina’s body was found (and the couple “KNEW” it was their au pair as they stated to the PD via phone, you know, because they “knew what she was wearing” and since media told the public what clothing was found with her body in the bags, the couple said that was what made them sure it was Karina. One has to wonder, however, how they would know what she was wearing two days prior, to go out in the city with friends, when she stayed alone in the Boston studio all weekend?

-There was a call to DOVER MA first responders for an “unrelated” matter, THE SAME NIGHT AUTHORITIES PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED HER IDENTITY, the same Monday this all came to light. Where? Oh, the address of the home belonging to Frank and Nancy where Karina worked throughout the week. A dumpster the couple shared with a few close neighbors somehow caught on fire, and after it was put out, the attempt made to test charred remains/ashes for any sign of human decomposition came up negative but this could be for multiple reasons. I mean, you can’t cremate bones/teeth/humans without a cremation oven as the heat needed to fully “destroy” that much evidence biological in nature- one can’t set in an atmosphere uncontained- meaning you can’t just do it, I still don’t know how people use that to dispose of bodies thinking it’ll work (it won’t). It could have failed due to poor handling of evidence, the wrong tests being run because there are so many you have to consider before ordering them, as they are expensive and often destroy entirely what little samples you have which are clearly precious. It could be many things that made this sample come up negative- esp. if they did not test for items that were not organic like a body.

-Last, for this article, as so much more is out there, but for the sake of keeping it brief, if interested I recommend checking out Frank Rapp and Susan Nichters art work, at least one piece done by one of them will give you the actual WILLIES. I need not say which, you will know- trust me.

And there you have it, a lottery ticket for the greatest adventure in her young life, a night out to celebrate the biggest holiday in her home country (Summer Solstice) and now half a body 20 years later shrouded in mystery and rumors, Karina’s family longs for answers, so if you have them, or have any information that could help (nothing is too small) please call the Cold Case Unit of Boston: 617-343-4470 or check out this link by copying and pasting into your browser: where you can click and report anonymously via Crime Stoppers Text a tip, direct email those on the squad and many more avenues exist to get your knowledge into the right hands and bring Karina’s loved ones, and Karina something that resembles the peace deserved.

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