Who Murdered This Swedish Immigrant And Stole The Lower Half Of Her Body?

April 4, 2023 People's Tonight 3866 views

Jacob Shelton

The unsolved murder of Karina Holmer is one of the most frustrating cases of the 20th century. Aside from the fact that this young Swedish au pair who lived in Boston was sawed in half on June 21, 1996, no one knows what happened to Karina Holmer. There are theories that throw blame on her employer, a musician who lived in the area, and even mysterious men in a gray car, but the lack of substantial physical evidence has lead to this cold case lying unsolved for more than two decades.

In American true crime lore there are a few major murders that have never been solved and that no one will ever be able to fully piece together. There are people who simply disappeared without a trace like Maura Murray and bodies that were never identified, but the murder of Karina Holmer feels like it’s waiting for a piece of evidence that can connect all of the dots. Take a look at these Karina Holmer murder facts, maybe you’ll be able to make some sense of this senseless crime.


• The Top Half Of Karina Holmer’s Body Was Found In A Dumpster

Karina1Photo: flickr / CC0

On the morning of June 23, 1996, two days after she was last seen, the body of Karina Holmer was discovered in a dumpster in an alley by Zanzibar, a club where Holmer had been at before her disappearance. Her body may have never been discovered if it weren’t for a homeless man digging through the trash for bottles and cans. As he tore through the black trash bag hoping to find the mother lode, he unexpectedly discovered the severed torso of a 20-year-old Swedish au pair. According to investigators her, body was cut in half expertly. Only one bone, her spine, had to be severed to separate the body.

• Holmer’s Bottom Half Was Never Found

BottomPhoto: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License

The most sadistic part of the murder is that no one has ever found Holmer’s lower half. Two decades later it’s unlikely that it’s ever going to turn up and if it does, it won’t be in a state that lends itself to collecting evidence. A theory has been floated that Holmer was a victim of a serial killer that spent some time in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, murdering prostitutes. The serial killer’s M.O. was to find a young, slender, woman with blonde hair and cut her body in half before leaving them in the dumpster. It could be a coincidence that Holmer’s murder fits this description like a glove, or it’s possible that a Florida serial killer went up to Boston for a long weekend.

• Holmer’s Mysterious Murder Led To One Creepy Theory

Unsolved murders lead to all kind of unchecked theories, but many amateur detectives have come to a similar conclusion since the 1996 discovery of Holmer’s upper body: they think her boss was behind the murder. The prevailing theory is that Holmer’s boss allegedly allowed her to stay in the loft he owned so they could hook up when she wasn’t working. He may have gotten her pregnant, had her murdered and then had the lower half of her body removed and destroyed in order to hide the evidence. This is a farfetched theory that makes a better fit for a B-Movie starring Nicholas Cage, but in this case where nothing makes sense, it’s not crazy to assume that Karina Holmer found herself working for a Jack the Ripper wannabe.

• The Night Of Her Disappearance

NightPhoto: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License

June 21, 1996, the night of Karina Holmer’s disappearance, was like any other Friday night in Boston. The bars were busy, people were everywhere, and no one was paying close attention to a young drunk woman who was out with her friends. Holmer and her friends met up at the loft where she stayed on weekends before going out to the Theater District to get rowdy. After losing her friends when the bars closed, Holmer was seen by multiple people in different areas of the district – although it’s entirely possible that witnesses either misremembered seeing Homer dancing with a homeless man in the street or walking up Tremont street outside of Zanzibar where her body was later found.

At least one eye witness recalls her getting into a car with a mysterious group of people.

• Holmer’s Case Is An Impossible Investigation

InvestigationPhoto: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License

Multiple investigators in the Holmer case have noted that the reason no one’s been charged in the murder is that there’s no crime scene.

There may be suspects, but without the physical evidence that can be obtained at a crime scene, there’s no way to pin anyone down. The only piece of evidence that the police were able to snag was a partial fingerprint found in the garbage bag that held her upper body, and the rope marks on her neck which caused her strangulation. David Meier, a partner at the law firm Todd and Weld spoke to The Boston Globe about how this case still haunts him: “There’s no crime scene. There’s no ability to determine with any definite basis how she was killed, why she was killed, where she was killed. Never mind who killed her.”

The best that investigators (professional and amateur) have been able to come up with in terms of the lack of evidence at the spot where Holmer’s body was discovered is that she was kidnapped from the area, then strangled and dismembered in another place before being dropped off in the dumpster.

• Boston Was Rife With Suspects

While there may have been a lack of crime scene in Holmer’s murder, there was no lack of suspects to tangentially tie to the case. As Holmer had been out clubbing on the assumed night of her murder, she talked to a lot of people. There was a man with a dog who wore matching Superman shirts that was known to cruise the neighborhood and an electronic musician with a drug problem who was unlucky enough to live near the spot where Holmer’s body was found. Her employer, who owned the loft where she lived, was also questioned in her murder although he was never formally charged. Despite another suspect in the case later committing two homicides where the victims were beheaded, no formal arrests were ever made.

• Holmer’s Good Fortune Quickly Turned Rotten

FortunePhoto: flickr / CC0

This all started with a lottery ticket. Before traveling to America Karina Holmer won $1,500 after buying a lottery ticket on a lark and decided to go on a trip. This is a turn of fortune that can happen to anyone, it just so happens that Holmer was flying to her doom in the summer of 1996 when she chose to visit Boston. Upon arrival in the States, she found a job as an au pair and a group of friends who had also immigrated to the US and found employment in the nanny business. Holmer’s employer didn’t just give her job, he allowed her to stay in his loft on the weekends so she could get away from work for a while. It’s terrible that such good luck could so quickly turn to misery.

• Holmer’s Letters Home Add Unsettling Nuances To The Story

LettersPhoto: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License

At the time of her murder, Holmer was working as an au pair in America for a Boston area family. Seeing as how she had traveled to the States on a whim after winning the lottery, this may have not been exactly the kind of trip she thought it would be. In letters to her friends weeks prior to her death, Holmer claimed that “something terrible” had happened, but she didn’t elaborate on what that might be. In a letter to Ulrika Svensson, Holmer wrote that she would “reveal more” when she returned home. Aside from the mysterious terrible thing that had happened, her letters also showed that Holmer had become jaded with all of the boring work that goes into au pairing. In a letter to her friend Charlotte Sandberg she wrote: “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.”

• The Men In The Grey Mitsubishi

One of the strangest stories surrounding Holmer’s murder happened on the night she was last seen alive. According to a man who allegedly accompanied the au pair to a club that evening, he said that when he tried to take her home, there were two men outside Zanzibar waiting for her. The unnamed man claims that the men put her in a gray Mitsubishi when he and Holmer exited the building. When he tried to interfere, one of the men stopped him, saying, “Get away from the car you little (expletive) or I’ll crush your (expletive) head.” If this part of the story really happened, then why did witnesses claim to see her dancing outside the club after 3am? Unfortunately, no real timeline has ever been put together for the Holmer case.

• It Would Take A Near Miracle To Solve This Case

Everyone involved with the case has admitted that there’s no way to solve the case without a substantial piece of evidence dropping in their lap. Unfortunately, that’s not something that happens in the real world. Detective Tommy O’Leary, who lead the case in 1996, says that he’s still searching for the murderer, or murderers. He still routinely investigates leads into Holmer’s murder. On the 20th anniversary of the crime, O’Leary claims to have received a tip about an apartment in the Fenway section of Boston (where she was discovered) and raced over to find nothing more than an empty apartment. He told The Boston Globe, “I don’t want to say it would take a miracle, but it would take an extraordinary piece of evidence to charge someone, let alone prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.”