Michelle Marie Ashley Nicholaou

Michelle, circa 1988; Michael Nicholaou, circa 1999

  • Missing Since 11/01/1988
  • Missing From Holyoke, Massachusetts
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 10/18/1966 (57)
  • Age 22 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'4, 100 - 160 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Sandy brown hair, brown eyes. Michelle may have two piercings in each ear. She may spell her last name "Nicolaou" and/or "Nicolau," and may use the last names Nicols, Nichols, Nicholno, Nickol and/or Nicholson. Her last name is pronounced "Nick-allow."

Details of Disappearance

Michelle was last seen in Holyoke, Massachusetts sometime in November or December 1988. She lived with her common-law husband, Michael Nicholaou, at the time. A photograph of him is posted with this case summary.

Michael is described as very controlling and possessive of Michelle, and her personality changed after she got involved with him. They stayed in various places around the United States, including Louisiana, Massachusetts, Virginia, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Michael had served as a helicopter pilot in the Army during Vietnam War. He and seven other helicopter crewmen were charged with murder and attempted murder for strafing civilians. The charges were dropped for insufficient evidence after six months, however, and Michael was released from active duty and sent home.

After arriving in the United States, he displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, including nightmares, flashbacks and angry outbursts. He received psychiatric treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs for his problems. Michael was decorated with two Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars and two Bronze Stars for his service in combat.

Prior to her disappearance, in August 1988, Michelle left Michael, taking their two children with her. (She also had another child from a previous relationship, and left it in the care of its father.) Michael was very angry about this and confronted various relatives of Michelle, demanding to know her whereabouts.

Michelle told her mother she was afraid Michael would kill her, and said that if this happened, her mother should find him and rescue the children. When Michael found them, he convinced Michelle to come back to him. Michelle vanished a few months later, sometime after her sister's November 1988 wedding.

When Michelle's family went looking for her in December, they found her house abandoned. The Christmas tree had been set up with presents placed underneath, and the refrigerator was stocked with food. There was no sign of Michael, Michelle or their children, and the children's baby books had been left behind. Michelle's family filed a missing persons report for her, but she was not located.

In 2000, Michelle's mother hired a private investigator, Lynn-Marie Carty, to locate Michelle, Michael and the children. Carty discovered that after Michelle's disappearance, Michael traveled to various states, including Florida and Virginia, where his mother and brother lived.

Sometimes he had the children with him, and sometimes he left them in the care of relatives or friends. Michael told some people that Michelle had run away with a drug dealer, and others that she was deceased. Michelle's children have since been reunited with their mother's family.

Carty interviewed Michael by telephone in 2001. He was living in Lutz, Florida at the time. At first he denied having ever known Michelle, then later admitted to his relationship with her. He denied that they were ever married, however, and stated she had run away with a Colombian drug dealer.

Michael fled his home with his new wife, Aileen Nicholaou, after Carty told him she was going to give Michelle's mother his phone number. He and Aileen moved to Georgia.

Michael allegedly ran her over with his car during an argument in November 2005. While Aileen was back in Florida recuperating from the attack, on December 31, 2005, Michael shot her to death. He also killed his adult stepdaughter. After the police surrounded him, Michael fatally shot himself.

After Michael's death, authorities announced they considered him a suspect or a person of interest in a number of serious crimes, including a series of rape-homicides in the Connecticut River Valley. He is one of the top three suspects in those murders, and authorities plan to test his DNA to see if it can be linked to the crimes.

Michelle has never been located and no one was ever charged in her disappearance, but foul play is strongly suspected in her case.

Investigating Agency

  • Holyoke Police Department 413-322-6940

Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated December 17, 2013; picture added.