“My favorite thing to do is stand outside and stare at you.”
That was one of many strange text messages that Cari Farver’s mother and ex-boyfriend received after she vanished. At least, they thought it was her. Dave Kroupa, Farver’s 36-year-old ex-boyfriend, watched as his cell phone blew up with dozens of text messages from what seemed like his ex-girlfriend.
Kroupa was almost used to it by that point. You kind of have to be when you get tens of thousands of texts and emails like that over a three-year period. The messages ranged from creepy to downright aggressive, rife with jealousy and rage. Over time, the tone changed from unpleasant to threatening. So, who was sending these nasty messages? Was it actually his missing ex-girlfriend looking to get her revenge? Or was there something much more sinister going on?
“I will destroy your life and take your happiness.”
“What do you do when somebody invades every space of your life?” Kroupa asked. One of the more hostile messages Kroupa had to read was: “I hate you so much that I want to drive a knife in your heart.” The man couldn’t keep up with them or even count how many times he had to change his phone number.
Eerily, these mysterious memos kept showing up on his phone. They all appeared to be from Cari Farver, the woman he dated for only two weeks when he was living in Omaha, Nebraska, but the strange thing was that nobody had physically seen Farver for a long time.
It took years, but eventually detectives uncovered who the stalker was: a vindictive ex-lover who had evidently gone to extreme lengths to destroy the person she considered to be her rival. The story was so extraordinary that an author named Leslie Rule wrote a book about it called A Tangled Web.
(If you recognize Rule’s name it’s because she’s the daughter of legendary true crime writer Ann Rule, who wrote The Stranger Beside Me about her friendship with Ted Bundy.) So, what’s the story? Well, let’s begin.
Kroupa moved to Omaha back in 2012 after accepting a job offer to be the manager of an auto repair shop.
Kroupa was single at the time, after having separated from his longtime girlfriend Amy Flora, who was the mother of his two kids. It was the first time in a long time that he was on his own. He didn’t know how to just jump back into the dating pool, he later recalled. He was “pretty rusty,” as he put it. Like many, he took to internet dating.
Kroupa signed up to a few dating sites, and the very first person he met online was a woman named Shanna “Liz” Golyar. He was instantly attracted to her, so they set up a date. Golyar had told him that she was a single mom with two kids around the same age as his own.
By their 4th date, the two were basically in a consummated relationship. According to Kroupa, he was upfront with her, telling Golyar that he wasn’t ready to settle down into a relationship just yet; he still wanted to see other women. About six months later, as he recalled, an “extremely attractive woman” walked into his auto shop.
It was Cari Farver, also a single mom, who brought her Ford Explorer in for some maintenance. “When we looked at each other, there was a little spark,” Kroupa remembered. “She’s showing me something inside the vehicle and we’re standing there, and we’re very close… and there was some tension.”
He wasn’t the only one who liked the vibe 37-year-old Farver gave off; her friends and family also considered her a vibrant and warm person. “You noticed Cari when she walked into a room,” her friend Amy Long said. “She lit up a room. You couldn’t help but notice her. You were drawn to her.”
Obviously, Kroupa asked her out, and he said they immediately hit it off. On their first date, he invited her back to his apartment after dinner and as things started heating up, Kroupa said she told him she didn’t want anything serious. “I felt like I hit the jackpot with that,” he later admitted.
That night, as Farver was leaving his apartment, she walked right by Golyar in the hallway, who had shown up unannounced to pick up some of her belongings that she had left there. “It was just a brief encounter, maybe 10 seconds or less, but this encounter would have lasting ramifications for all three of them.”
Those were the words of Jenn Carpenter, the host of the So Dead podcast, which followed the case. At the time, though, Kroupa thought nothing of this chance encounter between the two women. He was focused on Farver and how much he was smitten with her.
Farver was working as a computer programmer – her office was right around the corner from where Kroupa lived, whereas her home was an hour away in Macedonia, Iowa. Naturally, he offered to let her stay over more often than not.
On the morning of November 13, 2012, Kroupa got ready for work, kissed Farver on his way out and told her he would see her that evening. By mid-morning, Kroupa got a weird text message from her saying she wanted to move in together. It was “very left field because we had already talked about that not happening,” Kroupa later explained.
Kroupa replied to her, via text, that he wasn’t interested. She responded immediately with, “Fine. I hate you. I’m dating someone else. I don’t want to see you anymore. Go away.” Kroupa said he didn’t know what to think. “I was blown away.”
When he returned home that evening, Farver was gone. Two days later, his phone started blowing up with messages, seemingly from Farver, saying things like, “I hate you… you’ve ruined my life… You’re a terrible person.” After just a few weeks of dating her, and with such a sudden change in tone and behavior, Kroupa thought to himself, “I don’t need this.”
The messages were coming from Farver’s phone, so naturally, you would assume she was sending them. But what happened to the cool, fun girl that Kroupa was crazy about? Farver’s mother, Nancy Raney, said her daughter was diagnosed with depression in her late 20s – a few years after her son, Max, was born.
She was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “She had been seeing therapists and was on medication,” Raney said. She explained that there were a few times when she would stop taking the medication because she felt the pills were making her “numb.” So, could it have actually been Farver after all?
The thing is, when she started dating Kroupa, Farver was in a good place, as her mother attested to. She was working at her dream job, and Max was succeeding in school. Around the same time Kroupa started getting those senseless text messages, Raney began receiving them too.
One message stated that she (Farver) had taken on a new job in Kansas, which “totally threw” Raney. She tried to get her daughter on the phone, but she wouldn’t call her back, which was unlike her. When her daughter didn’t show at her half-brother’s wedding, Raney reported her missing.
Raney informed the police that her daughter was bipolar and that she was on medication. With that information, the police were quick to say, “Well, this kind of thing happens all the time. When somebody who’s bipolar stops taking their meds, sometimes… they can start some really erratic behavior.”
According to Raney, the police didn’t take her pleas seriously. ABC News contact the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s office, to which they gave a statement, saying the department “takes all missing persons reports seriously no matter the circumstances surrounding them. The available evidence during the initial investigation was inconclusive, but we did not give up.”
“I will do what I can to make you suffer.”
“We belong together, Dave.”
Meanwhile, Kroupa was being harassed by text messages and emails from Farver. He noted that most of the messages focused on Golyar, the woman he previously dated and who crossed paths with Farver in the hallway. Yes, it was all very, very fishy.
When Kroupa spoke to Golyar, she told him she was also being harassed through texts and emails. One day, Golyar called him to tell him that her garage had been vandalized. When she pulled into the garage, she saw that someone had written “Whore from Dave” in spray paint. Golyar reported the incident to the police in November 2012.
As the weeks went by, Farver continued to miss planned family events, including her very own birthday, her son’s 15th birthday, Thanksgiving and then her father’s funeral. It was obvious at this point that something was very wrong. More so, it became clear that Farver didn’t choose to just vanish – something had happened to her.
What made everything extremely confusing were all the messages “Farver” was sending. If she was alive, then why was she not attending her own son’s birthday and father’s funeral? Raney begged her daughter to call her so she could hear her voice. But she never did.
According to Raney, Farver’s teenaged son Max was also getting messages, saying she was going to Kansas and that she was coming to get him. Yet, she never showed up. The texts became offensive and cruel, telling Raney that she “wasn’t a good mother” and that she was controlling.
She couldn’t help but notice that the texts were full of grammatical and spelling mistakes and punctuation errors, something out of character for her daughter, who was “a stickler for punctuation and spelling.”
As for Kroupa, the harassment wasn’t limited to just text and email; he was being stalked, too.
Kroupa recounted one of the creepier moments of this saga. “On one specific occasion, I was sitting in my La-Z-Boy with my feet up, watching T.V., trying to relax, and it’s nighttime… and I get a text saying, ‘I see you. You’re sitting in your chair with your feet propped up, wearing a blue shirt.’”
About two months after the harassment began, in January 2013, Kroupa came home from work and noticed a familiar car in the parking lot. He realized it was Farver’s Ford Explorer (he worked on it in his auto shop and thus was familiar with it). So, he took a photo of the license plate and sent it to the police.
The police searched the car and found only one single fingerprint on a mint container. It didn’t match Farver’s prints or anyone in the FBI’s national database. What could have been a big step in the investigation proved fruitless.
Weeks turned into months, and Farver was nowhere to be found. Another beacon of hope presented itself about five months after she disappeared, when a man called Raney to tell her that he had seen Farver at a homeless shelter and that she told this man that she wanted Raney to pick her up. “I was shaking,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to bring her home, she’s going to be OK.’”
Raney and the investigators on the case raced over to the shelter only to learn that Farver had never been there. Needless to say, it was a devastating letdown for the mother. “I get this raising in my hopes, and then it’s dashed again. I knew somebody was playing games here.”
Six months into her disappearance, Max tried a different route. He sent a message to his mother’s Facebook account to see what would happen. Lo and behold, she messaged back. Her response: “Hey little man, how are you?” Max then asked her three questions to prove that it was really her…
The questions were: What his middle name was, what was the name of their first dog, and what was the name of his best friend. Unsurprisingly, she never responded to that message. Meanwhile, Kroupa and Golyar were still seeing each other on and off and continued to receive nasty messages.
Kroupa said that they would be hanging out, watching T.V. together, and both their phones would get bombarded with messages from Farver. At one point, Kroupa said he got an email from Farver threatening to kill Golyar, complete with a photo of a woman tied up in the trunk of a car.
Kroupa called Golyar to confirm that she was indeed okay. He later was sent a fake obituary for Golyar. The hostility was now materializing and terrorizing both him and Golyar. In August 2013, Golyar’s house caught fire, killing her pets (two dogs, a cat and a snake). Investigators believed it was arson, and Golyar told them she suspected Farver.
Then, Kroupa’s auto shop was vandalized. Kroupa became so paranoid by that point that he purchased a gun. In January 2014, Kroupa was with a high school friend named Heather Twedt in his apartment. Twedt said she saw his cell phone light up with countless messages, and she even heard someone jiggering the front door handle. That night, a brick was thrown through the window.
Amy Flora, Kroupa’s ex-girlfriend and mother of his two children, was also receiving messages from Farver. “It was anyone in Dave’s life, it seemed, Cari headed out for,” Carpenter said. By spring 2015, two-and-a-half years since anyone saw Farver, the harassment was still going on.
Iowa Detectives Ryan Avis and Jim Doty were not assigned to the case, but they had heard about it in the office. Intrigued, they volunteered to take it on themselves. With fresh perspectives, they approach the case from different angles.
They started from the beginning, digging to the bottom of the original case file. Avis and Doty were aware of Farver’s bipolar diagnosis, but they didn’t believe it was relevant to her disappearance. Avis found it remarkable that there had been no activity in Farver’s checking account ever since she went missing.
“It’s not normal for adults to just up and leave and literally spend no money. No one’s seen them, and no one’s heard their voice… It just didn’t make sense,” Avis remarked. “She had a good income, a good house. I had come to the conclusion that I could not prove she was actually alive.”
Doty said the detail that stuck out for him was the fact that Golyar, who had never been involved in Farver’s life, was involved. “All of a sudden, she’s this focus of harassment,” Doty said. “Her name was all over all the reports. So, to me, there was something with Liz. She definitely was a person of interest.”
Since the only forms of communication from Farver were electronic, Doty and Avis asked their colleague Anthony Kava, a digital forensics administrator at the County Sheriff’s Office, for help. In 2013, both Kroupa and Golyar agreed to have their phones’ content downloaded for investigation.
Kava started connecting the dots. “We knew these messages don’t seem to really be coming from Cari Farver,” Kava said. The imposter pretending to be Farver, he explained, had sent Kroupa about 15,000 email messages and between 25,000 and 50,000 texts over three years.
Whoever this imposter was, he or she was getting more sophisticated and knew to hide their I.P. address and their real identity. The investigators also found a photo of Farver’s Ford Explorer in Golyar’s phone, which included metadata showing that the photo was taken about a month before police recovered the vehicle.
“Somehow, Liz knew where Cari’s vehicle was before law enforcement even did,” Doty remarked. Another thing they found on Golyar’s phone were six calls made to Farver’s residence using the *67 prefix to disguise the number.
It was confusing to the detectives, seeing as they knew the two women had only met once, in passing, in a hallway. Remember that photo of the woman tied up in the back of a trunk that was sent to Kroupa’s phone? Well, that too came from Golyar’s phone. Oh, and that fingerprint on the mint case in the Ford Explorer? Yes, that was Golyar’s too.
Could it be? Was Golyar the crazy stalker this whole time?
The investigators kept finding more incriminating evidence from Golyar’s phone. They discovered a video recording of someone walking outside of Kroupa’s apartment, which was then uploaded to YouTube under Farver’s name but tied to an I.P. address registered to Golyar’s residence.
In May 2015, Doty and Avis interviewed Nancy Raney. It was the first time someone of authority told her that they didn’t think her daughter left of her own free will. During their meeting, Raney gave the detectives another clue. After Farver disappeared, Raney received a text saying Farver sold all her furniture. She asked Raney to let the buyer into the house to pick everything up.
She told the detectives that, as proof of the sale, Raney got a photo of a check for the furniture that was made out to Farver, signed by “Shanna Golyar.” Remember, Golyar’s real name was Shanna, not Liz. It was yet another real connection between the two women.
It gave the detectives something real to work with – they now knew that Golyar was hiding things from them and Kroupa. As the investigation was proving fruitful, Kroupa realized the gun he bought for protection was missing. So, he reported it stolen to the police. At this point, the police needed a ruse to reach Golyar.
In December 2015, Doty and Avis were at the County Sheriff’s Office when Golyar walked in. Not expecting to see her, they learned that she came to file a harassment complaint against Kroupa’s ex-girlfriend, Amy Flora.
Later that day, Avis drove to Golyar’s house to interview her, making it look like it was about her complaint. She told Avis that she now thought it was Flora who was terrorizing her and Kroupa. When Avis asked to download her phone’s contents again, she signed the consent form and turned it over – something he said he couldn’t believe she actually did.
During their conversation, Golyar mentioned Kroupa’s gun. Avis said she correctly identified it as a 9mm Smith and Wesson and that it was missing, claiming Flora must have stolen it. The next day, Golyar called 911, claiming she was shot in the leg while walking alone at night in Council Bluffs.
At first, she said she didn’t know who the culprit was, but later she pointed out that it must have been Flora. (Flora was cleared that same evening.) In the meantime, Kava was scanning the contents of Golyar’s phone after the second download. He saw that she had registered “upwards of 20 or 30 fake email addresses,” all of which were a variation of Farver’s name.
Kava also learned that Golyar was using an app with which she could schedule future messages. So, if you were wondering up to this point how they could have been together and get messages at the same time, this explains it.
Up to that moment, Kroupa didn’t believe it was Golyar because of the fact that she was also getting messages while she was sitting right next to him. All in all, according to Kava’s calculations, Golyar spent about 40 to 50 hours a week impersonating Farver. Talk about a full-time job!
Two weeks after she was shot (or that she shot herself), Doty and Avis brought Golyar in for an interview. She kept pushing them to investigate Flora instead and told them that she had no idea she was their main suspect in Farver’s disappearance. What Doty and Avis did, then, was come up with a plan.
They were going to tell Golyar that they believed her story that Flora was the one who shot her (which they clearly knew wasn’t true). They were going to tell her that they needed her to get Flora to incriminate herself. So, they got Golyar to call Flora to see if she would tell her anything about Farver.
Golyar almost immediately fabricated emails that she said were sent by Flora. “We started receiving messages that she said were from Amy Flora… where Amy confesses to shooting Liz at Big Lake Park,” Doty described. So, they kept pressing Golyar to get details on Farver’s death.
A few days later, she did exactly that. Another “email from Flora” came in, saying that she stabbed Farver “three to four times” and stuffed the body into a garbage bag. Doty mentioned that the details were “bone-chilling because they were graphic.” Still, Flora wasn’t being arrested, and Golyar grew increasingly upset. Doty explained to her that they needed more information… the kind of details that only Farver’s killer would know…
Within hours, “confession” emails from “Flora” were popping up, complete with details of the murder, just as the detectives wanted. She said Farver was stabbed to death in her own car. Based on these emails, the Ford Explorer now became a crime scene.
It was now the third time police searched Farver’s car. This time, however, they pulled the fabric off the passenger seat, exposing a red stain that was later determined to be Farver’s blood. At this point, cold-case homicide detective Dave Schneider joined the investigation. He was the one who brought Golyar in for questioning and confronted her with all the evidence.
Golyar denied everything, even claiming that she didn’t have internet service. During her interrogation, Doty and Avis got their hands on a search warrant for her apartment. Inside, they found a number of Farver’s possessions, including a camera and a camcorder, which they believed was stolen from Farver’s home.
On the camcorder was a video of Farver talking about how her car was vandalized. The time stamp? Two days before her disappearance. On December 22, 2016, Golyar was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Douglas County attorney Brenda Beadle, the prosecutor in the case, said it was “by far the most difficult case I’ve ever tried.”
“Most homicides are dark. This one was… bizarre to the point where it would take some convincing to make somebody believe that it actually happened,” Beadle said. “There’s no way that someone would let their dog die in a fire that they started. There’s no way that someone would shoot themselves in the femur.”
In 2017, a few months before the trial was set to begin, Kroupa remembered a tablet he had placed in storage, and turned it over to the investigators. On the tablet, Kava found a micro-SD memory card that was also in Golyar’s phone around the time of the murder. Kava recovered thousands of deleted images on the card.
Kava came across a photo that showed a human foot with a tattoo. The tattoo was a Chinese symbol for “mother” – the exact same one Farver had on her foot. “It was shocking,” Kava said. “Liz Golyar killed Cari Farver and she’s taking photos of her body.”
Whereas Beadle painted Golyar as a “diabolical” and “cruel” woman, the defense attorney argued that the evidence was circumstantial, that Golyar had been considered a victim at one point and he reiterated the fact that Farver’s body hadn’t been found.
Judge Timothy Burns ultimately found Golyar guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced her to life in prison.
Golyar is serving time at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women, and to this day, maintains her innocence. Author Leslie Rule has received letters from Golyar, one of which said she would “not stop fighting until I am set free, and they find the right person.”
As for Kroupa, he’s glad Golyar was put behind bars and that she can never do this to anyone ever again. He said his thoughts are with Farver’s mother and son – “the ones that have to live with the repercussions.” He also called Doty, Avis, Kava “heroes.” The three men established a scholarship fund in Farver’s name.
When asked how Raney wanted her daughter to be remembered, she said: “as the fun-loving, talented, smart woman that she was.” She was only 37 when she was killed.