Summer of the Swedish Nanny

By SCOTT FAYNER  |  June 23, 2011

PERSONS 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.


PARTY'S OVER

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 and a while," Hanson says. "Every time I'm near Lansdowne Street and I pass that dumpster, I wonder what happened that weekend."

Scott Fayner can be reached at fayneralmighty@gmail.com.

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