Karina Holmer, 20, was a Swedish AuPair who left her home country of Sweden and travelled to America to live with a Boston, Massachusetts family.
An AuPair is a childcare provider who receives a temporary visa to travel to another country and live with a family and care for their children in exchange for a predetermined wage and cultural experience. Karina was excited at the opportunity to travel to the US. Four months into the exchange and she was adapting very well. Her AuPair family described her as a responsible, respectable, trustworthy and caring woman who took her job her job taking care of children seriously, but also enjoyed her free time and exploring different places in New England. Just a young woman figuring her life out and having fun on the way. She had no enemies, at least none that were known.
The weekends were her time to go out and enjoy herself, exploring new clubs and bars, hanging out with friends, and meeting new people, and June 21, 1996 was no different.
On the night of June 21st she decided to go to Zanzibar, a popular nightclub on Boylston Place in Boston. She had been there before and was familiar with the scenery. She dressed to the nines, dotting a shining gray sweater and silver pants, which was the style then, and she was very stylish. Many described her as a very attractive woman and she had many males approaching her. She was always kind even if the attraction wasn’t mutual, and was far from stuck up.
Outdated photo of Karina dressed in all black at Zanzibar prior to June 21, 1996
When she arrived at the club she was seen enjoying herself, drinking, dancing, socializing and even singing. She didn’t have a care in the world. Shortly after however, she was seen passed out on the clubs restroom floor. It appeared that she had gotten a little to intoxicated and like many people, being intoxicated more than likely lowered her guard and judgement and gave a sexual predator and murderer the opportunity to take advantage.
Details after the restroom incident are foggy and something only a few people, including her killer, no. What we do no is that the former Au-Pair was attacked, either by a stranger or someone she met that night or possibly someone she had met over the past four months in the United States, although unlikely given the circumstances.
Karina was not only murdered, she was tortured, sexually assaulted and dismembered into two pieces. The top half of her body was discarded in a Fenway dumpster but the bottom half of her body was never recovered.
Police searched high and low for the person(s) responsible. They tracked Karina’s movements in the 48 hours leading up to her death, interviewed dozens of individuals, and followed hundreds of tips. But despite the hard efforts her case remains unsolved and her killer’s identity remains unknown.
The below article was published by The Phoenix , a Boston news website. It gives the account of Karina’s murder by a man who was one of the last people to have been Karina Holmer alive:
It’s been 15 years since the top half of Holmer’s body was discovered in a Fenway dumpster. The crime fascinated Boston, paralyzed its nightlife, and spurred an investigation that sputtered along for years. But the police never caught her killer.
They never even found the rest of her body.
I didn’t know Holmer by name, but I knew her face. I had said hello to her time after time when she’d come in to Zanzibar on weekend nights to drink; she got served, even though she was only 20. She was known as “Swedish Nanny.” They all were. There were a bunch of them, European au pairs, and they liked to party. They’d dance, they’d drink, and if they were lucky they’d end up getting finger-banged in the back stairwell during one of DJ Tad Bonvie’s cheese-heavy medleys.
We really should have seen this coming.
Monday morning rolled around, and I headed in for my day shift at the Zanzibar offices. The first thing I saw was the news crews blocking up the street. Big microphones bounced off my face as I made my way through the pack.
When I got up to Zanzibar, the tiny office was bursting with cops, both uniformed officers and detectives in plain clothes. Sit down, I was told, they’ll get to you soon enough.
Finally, the cops crowded me into one of the manager’s offices. Did you see anyone suspicious on Friday night, or any other night? they demanded, as I slouched behind the big desk in the poorly lit room. Where were you at the time of the murder?
I was a grubby-looking guy those days, I won’t lie. Plus, a friend at Allston Beat used to give me bottles of Hard Candy nail polish, and I had each fingernail painted a different color. I must have looked suspicious. When they finished asking questions, they started over again.
They questioned my Alley coworkers, too. Cheryl Hanson, who ran Bishop’s Pub across the alley, told them she’d talked to Holmer the night she died. “It’s kind of freaky to think I was just complimenting her on her clothes,” she remembers, “and now I’m giving a description of them so they can help identify her murdered body.”
My buddy Thomas was questioned after the cops found out he’d been shot one night outside Zanzibar months before. “I had to get all my credit-card receipts from that weekend and put them in chronological order to give to them,” he told me years later. “After that, I never heard another word from them.”
The cops called me in for questioning again and again. It got ridiculous. I think I finally told them that I was a coke-head and too weak to even lift up a chainsaw.
A young woman with dirty-blonde hair was passed out along the left wall, teetering on a tall chair with her head buried in her hands. I thought nothing of it as I glided by. This wasn’t anything new, you see. It wouldn’t have been a Friday night without at least one zonked-out babe hanging out in Zanzibar just after closing time looking for her friends or a one night stand.
This was the ’90s, after all — a time when Zima was king, the cocaine was crap, and gazillionaire princes from God-knows-where guzzled Cristal amid the sweaty Euro crowd scene. And on the weekends, they all packed into Zanzibar, the Theater District club where I worked, the sweaty beating heart of a bar-lined alley known as “the Alley.”
From the balcony above, one of the bartenders called down to me. “Fayner!” he yelled. “Can you walk that chick to a cab or something?”
I pointed to the woman I had just passed. “This chick?”
He replied yes.
“No problem, just let me grab something from the back first,” I said, as I made my way to the cooler to rifle beer. But when I came back, she was gone.
So I guess you could say that I was one of the last people to see Karina Holmer alive.
PERSON OF INTEREST
Eyewitnesses recalled many contradicting things that morning. Holmer left Zanzibar alone and got into a cab. She took off on foot with an older man. She got into a silver car with four dudes and sped off. She chatted with a crazy man and his big shaggy dog in matching Superman T-shirts. But who’s to say the woman any of those people saw was in fact Karina Holmer? Drunken chicks wearing shiny silver pants spewed out of the Alley every night of the week in those days.
Amid the confusion, suspects emerged. The first and most obvious was Frank Rapp, a Dover artist and Holmer’s boss; a mysterious fire had burned outside Rapp’s condo complex after Holmer went missing. But the police couldn’t find anything linking him to the crime.
After that, the investigation sprawled out in a dozen different directions. Detectives questioned a panhandler, Juan Polo, who was seen singing and dancing in the street with Holmer the night of her murder. They also questioned Sleep Chamber frontman and noted junkie John Zewizz, who happened to live two blocks from the dumpster where Holmer was found. And they investigated Herbie Witten, the crazy guy with the dog in the Superman T-shirt.
But no one was ever arrested.
When I tried to talk to the cops for this story, all I got back was this boilerplate e-mail: “The Boston Police Homicide Unit continues to seek justice for Karina Holmer. Investigators share a strong desire with Karina’s family to hold the perpetrator accountable. If anyone has any information about what happened to Karina, please contact 617.343.4470. Detectives will continue to aggressively pursue any new leads.”
The theory that had the most traction with those of us who worked down at the Alley was that a cop who had dated Holmer was the real killer. But the most that ever came of that was a terse Boston Globe story, noting that an unnamed officer had been questioned in connection with the murder.
“No one’s a suspect, but everyone’s a suspect,” a “source close to the investigation” told the Globe.
The Alley became a ghost town after that.
At Zanzibar, it felt as if the place was cursed. Night after night, the club was empty. The manager would send staff home. Everyone started looking for new jobs elsewhere. No one wanted to go down with the ship.
“Everyone was on this heightened alert,” recalls Hanson, “making sure underage people were kept away; definitely being more diligent with IDs. Basically, we stopped making money.”
Outside our doors, there was something heavy in the air. Before, at closing time, the Alley would be packed with people — screaming, yelling, making out, and puking. But after the murder, it was quiet. People walked to cars or to the T in pairs or groups. Women were careful who they talked to.
In October, the city suspended Zanzibar’s license for serving underage drinkers. By the following year, the club was reopened with a new name, new management, and a mostly-new staff, and soon business was blazing again. But that crowd — the Euro kids and the nannies and the yuppies — never really came back (probably for the best).
Karina Holmer’s killer is still out there. It’s hard not to wonder about.
“Yeah, I still think about her death every once in a while,” Hanson says. “Every time I’m near Lansdowne Street and I pass that dumpster, I wonder what happened that weekend.”