A Boston Au Pair's Grisly Slaying Stirs Fears In The Nanny Network

Posted: June 27, 1996

BOSTON — 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.

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