An aspiring lingerie model from Colorado Springs who has been missing for more than a month may be the victim of a dark modeling subculture, officials from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office say.
Kara Nichols, 19, wanted desperately to be a model and was willing to do almost anything to become one, said Det. Cliff Porter, of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
"What we've learned is that there is a subculture to exploit women in these situations," he said. "I have a great concern that she can be the victim of that exploitation."
He would not elaborate on what type of exploitation that might be.
Nichols was last seen Oct. 9 and spent the day with an unknown brunette woman, said Sheriff Terry Maketa at a Tuesday afternoon press conference about her disappearance. Maketa said the office is trying to identify the brunette to find out more about where Nichols was planning to go.
That day, Nichols ran into her Cimarron Hills home on the 6700 block of Mission Road and told her roommate that she might be heading to the Denver area. Then she ran out, leaving behind her purse and a large sum of cash, Porter said. Porter said it's unlikely she would have left the house for an extended time without her purse and money. She hasn't been seen or heard from since.
Nichols was very connected to her friends and family through social media and stopped posting information as soon as she disappeared. Also her mobile phone, which she used constantly, hasn't been used since her disappearance, Maketa said. Those factors concern law enforcement, he said.
On Tuesday, her parents, Paul and Julie Nichols, begged that anyone with information come forward.
"I want to appeal to the public to come forward with any news and any information, not matter how insignificant it might seem," Paul Nichols said. "People would think 'gosh this sort of thing doesn't happen to me' but it can," Paul Nichols said.
Nichols tried to get modeling work through such websites as Model Mayhem and Beautiful Distractions. Several pictures of her online depict her wearing lingerie.
"Although I'm new to it, modeling is something I am very passionate about and I take my work seriously," her profile on Model Mayhem reads. "Currently I'm working on building my portfolio so I'm always looking for modeling opportunities in my area. I've done mostly lingerie shoots so far but I'm extremely open minded."
The Facebook site "Help us find Kara Nichols" asked that people not judge her because of the lingerie photos.
"A teen with a dream of becoming the next model is now a teen in trouble; she is not the first and sadly will not be the last -- but you, the public, have the power to be the voice for justice or either a voice of judgment; we hope many of you will take the higher road," the site reads.
Porter said the sheriff's office is investigating all leads. Some of the businesses and websites that say they want to help aspiring models exploit them, he said.
"This is a case of a missing girl, but it's also a wider case of the exploitive culture she may have been a part of."
To contact this reporter with information: Maria St. Louis-Sanchez: 636-0274
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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