COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Law enforcement investigators are trying to identify two brunette women who were the last people seen with 19-year-old Kara Nichols, an aspiring model from Colorado Springs, on the day she vanished last month.
El Paso County sheriff's officials said in a Tuesday statement that the teenager's eagerness to break into the modeling business may have "caused Kara to fall prey to a subculture of modeling business fronts that many times involve illicit drugs and prostitution."
"This subculture could have exploited a teenage girl who may have lacked the life experience to see the inherent risks. Our investigators have uncovered several websites which are not the cause of Kara's disappearance, but sites which relate to this subculture," sheriff's officials said.
At an afternoon news briefing, investigators said that they consider the two brunette women to be witnesses -- not suspects -- in Nichols' disappearance.
Authorities released two photos of one brunette they're seeking, asking the public's help in identifying her. In one photo, the woman has long dark hair and a large tattoo covering her left upper arm.
A sheriff's investigator told 7NEWS reporter Don Champion they believe the woman in the photo lives in the Denver area.
Nichols was last seen on the evening of Oct. 9 as she left her home located in the 6700 block of Mission Road in Colorado Springs, sheriff's officials said. She left behind key personal items -- her purse and driver's license -- suggesting she planned to soon return home.
She told a roommate that she was going to Denver to check on a modeling job.
Since that day, the young woman who constantly used her cellphone and social media to stay in touch with family and friends hasn't been heard from, officials said.
"All of a sudden that stopped -- no communication since then, especially from a person who was an extrovert, who was always reaching out to people," said Sheriff Terry Maketa.
The abrupt end of contact with Nichols makes "this disappearance more concerning," Maketa said.
The missing teen's father, Paul Nichols, urged the public to help find his daughter.
"She was a delightful daughter, a delightful kid," the father said, describing a "very bright, very creative" young woman with a passion for art and fashion.
"She had sparkly eyes and she was very interested in art," Paul Nichols said.
"She just could’ve been anything. She could've had the world at her feet," the father said. "To see that she's missing now is just a crushing blow."
Investigators are concerned that Nichols may have fallen victim to criminals using the lure of modeling dreams to exploit women.
"This was a good young kid who wanted something so badly and really believed in the people who told her that they could hand it to her," said sheriff's Detective Cliff Porter.
Investigators don't know if the two brunette women they're looking for are also connected to the modeling business.
They said Nichols spent much of the day she disappeared with one of the brunette women. Porter said the two brunettes -- including the one whose photo they released -- know one another.
Ako Pah is a Denver photographer who met Nichols two years ago at a concert. He photographed her in April.
Like police, Pah has no clue where she could be. He said he does not recognize the woman in the photo provided by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
"I think it's the first time I worked with a model that's been missing. Most of my models are my friends. My close friends," he said.
He is now posting her photo on his Facebook page, hoping she returns safely.
A page on ModelMayhem.com lists Nichols as a model looking for work.
"I've done mostly lingerie shoots so far but I'm extremely open minded," her ModelingMayhem.com biography states. Nichols also worked at a Colorado Springs restaurant.
Nichols is described as white, 5 feet 8 inches tall, 120 pounds with blond hair and green eyes.
Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at 719-390-5555 or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.