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Kara Nichols's Mom Asks: Did Sheriff's Sins Doom Search for Missing Daughter?

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Yesterday, we told you about the indictment of Terry Maketa, once the El Paso County Sheriff, along with former Undersheriff Paula Presley (who was also his lover) and an ex-commander on charges that include conspiracy to commit extortion, witness tampering and even second-degree kidnapping.

Now comes an unexpected ripple effect.

Julia Nichols, mother of Kara Nichols, who disappeared in 2012 at age nineteen, is asking that her daughter's case be reopened because the sheriff's office was in turmoil when she vanished — and she's got audio in which a deputy admits that mistakes were made.

Here's how Nichols's disappearance is summed up on the Help Us Find Kara Nichols Facebook page:

Kara Nichols, 19, left her home in Colorado Springs bound for Denver on October 9, 2012 only to not be seen again. The last call on her cell phone was at 11:45 p.m. on October 9, 2012. Despite ongoing flyer distribution, a national media campaign and the investigation by law enforcement, still no word from Kara.

In addition to the reward the family posted over the summer, her parents also pushed for Kara to be entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). Kara's case; case number is NamUs MP #20819.

More details are shared in the following poster:

Early on, as we've reported, the investigation into Nichols's disappearance focused to a large degree on Model Mayhem, a website for individuals interested in modeling, to which she'd affixed a profile.

A bio on the now-deleted item read:

My name is Kara and I'm 19 years old. I've been modeling since February 2012, and although I'm new to it modeling is something I am very passionate about and I take my work seriously. 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 and I'm willing to work with you on ideas for shoots so contact me if you're interested in working with me!

The bio ended with this postscript, which speaks volumes about the world of modeling:

NOTE TO PHOTOGRAPHERS — due to my financial situation I am mainly focused on paid work. I am still open for TF shoots but paid work takes priority for now. Please contact me for serious requests only.

Two other young women reported missing around the time of Nichols vanished — Raven Furlong and Kelsie Schelling, whose case is back in the news after Pueblo police put out an alert for a man seen stealing signs about her disappearance — had also created profiles for modeling-related sites, including Model Mayhem.

Then, in November 2012, a photo of Nichols was spotted on what was described as a "Las Vegas escort-based website," prompting speculation that she was working as a prostitute in Nevada.

This prospect wasn't beyond the realm of possibility: In January 2013, Julia Nichols, Kara's mom, revealed that her daughter had "issues with drugs and the link to prostitution."

But even after sharing such personal and painful information, Nichols remains at large — and if she's found, her adult status means she can return or stay where she is if she chooses.

That's what happened with Furlong, who was contacted by police in California in April 2013 and decided not to come home.

Throughout this process, Kara's parents have kept hope alive. 

This image was posted on the page last month.

And in recent days, Julia marked Kara's 23rd birthday with this note: "Happy birthday to my lovely daughter. I pray you are somewhere safe. We love you forever."

Then came the indictment of Maketa, Presley and former Commander Juan San Agustin — and in their wake, Julia spoke to 7News to express her fear that corruption within the office undermined the investigation of Kara's case.

"When my daughter went missing, the department was in what appears to be complete disarray," she tells the station. "It leads us to think very little was done in her case, even though they gave lip service to working hard to solve my daughter's disappearance."

This isn't sheer speculation on Julia's part.

She provided the station with a recording of an El Paso County deputy "suggesting he may have cut corners filling out a report concerning Kara's disappearance," 7News maintains.

An excerpt from the audio: "I apologize. It's not going to be as good as if I had, you know, done it when, when all that stuff happened."

For more information about the search for Kara Nichols, click here.

Continue to see the 7News report, which features a Maketa booking photo; he turned himself in, but has already posted bond and is free at this writing.

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