The parents of Kara Nichols, a 19-year-old Colorado Springs model who went missing in 2012, say they are in disbelief over a recording released by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office earlier this week that suggests the initial investigator brushed off the case.
In the 50-minute recording, a man identified as patrol deputy Cliff Porter is confronted in by Undersheriff Paula Presley, Law Enforcement Bureau Chief Al Harmon and Sheriff Terry Maketa about statements he made in the Nichols case.
Porter was taken off the case after a couple of months, but he came under fire after statements he made to his replacement were reported to his superiors. He repeated those statements in meeting apparently recorded in March.
"I said you know ... maybe somebody would finally just say, look, this is a cold case, this girl is probably dead, we're going to work the leads but we're going to shelve this thing, and we won't overreact every time Mr. Nichols comes in," the man says in the recording.
The recording was released in a response to a complaint Porter filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday, alleging that Maketa tried to bully him into supporting John Anderson in a bid for sheriff.
On Thursday, Julia and Paul Nichols released a statement in response to the recording and Porter's lawsuit.
"The fact that Deputy Porter has the gall to use our daughter's case as a way to cover his own ineptitude is infuriating," their statement read.
Julia Nichols said the recording indicates that Porter mishandled the case - something they believed all along.
"In the first few weeks, we were wondering why he wouldn't respond to our calls, and when he did, he seemed very cynical, very negative about the possibility of finding our daughter alive," Julia Nichols said Thursday. She said the family's requests to meet Porter were dealt with reluctantly.
A new detective was assigned to the case in February 2013, she said. But she believes the case has gone cold, and criticizes the Sheriff's Office for being ineffective.
"You just wonder what else has gone on. You wonder how many other victims have been treated like this," Nichols said. "It just re-victimized a family who's already suffering."
Porter's attorney, Erin Jensen, said his client would not comment on an open missing person's investigation.