More than 18 years have passed since18-year-old Natalee Holloway disappeared during her senior class trip in Aruba, but her family is hopeful they may finally find answers to what happened to their daughter.
Joran van der Sloot, a longtime suspect in the Alabama teenager’s 2005 disappearance, is now facing charges of extortion and fraud after allegedly plotting to sell information about the location of Holloway’s remains. After spending years behind bars in Peru for the murder of another woman, van der Sloot was extradited to the U.S. on Thursday.
He appeared in a federal courthouse in Alabama on Friday and pleaded not guilty. His attorney did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Though the current case does not charge van der Sloot with Holloway’s disappearance, her family remains hopeful that the judicial process will bring them answers.
“These particular charges do not involve me directly, but I am trusting that this prosecution will lead us to the truth about Natalee. I remain thankful for everything done by the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI, and the U.S. Marshal’s office here in Birmingham,” Holloway’s father, Dave Holloway, said in a statement to HuffPost on Friday. “We are also deeply appreciative for the support of people all over the world who share [a] common belief that good must always prevail over evil.”
Who was Natalee Holloway?
Holloway was 18 years old and graduating from Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, Alabama, when she disappeared during a senior class trip to Aruba. She was last seen getting inside a silver Honda at around 1:30 a.m. after the students’ last night out on May 30, 2005, according to the FBI.
In a two-part interview with Oxygen in 2017, Jessica Caiola, a classmate and friend, described Holloway as a “beautiful person” who was kind and generous. Caiola was one of the last to see both van der Sloot and Holloway before Holloway disappeared.
Caiola said she remembered first seeing van der Sloot in the hotel’s casino two days before Holloway’s disappearance and again at the bar the night she disappeared.
Caiola said the group of friends left the bar to go grab street food, and as they were waiting for a shuttle, she remembered seeing Holloway inside a silver car, which had its windows rolled down, as it drove off.
“My impression was, ‘Oh great, she found a ride back to the hotel,’” Caiola said.
Holloway never made it back to the hotel, and her friends did not realize until the next morning that she had disappeared.
Her body has never been found, and authorities declared her legally dead in 2012.
Who is Joran van der Sloot, and why was he a suspect?
Three people were in the car with Holloway when she was last seen: Van der Sloot and brothers Satish and Depak Kalpoe, who were all teens at the time.
They told police officers that they had visited a beach with Holloway that day before taking her back to her hotel, CNN reports.
Van der Sloot and the brothers were arrested days later, on June 9, 2005, in connection with her disappearance.
Paul van der Sloot, a judge in Aruba and van der Sloot’s father, was arrested shortly after on suspicion of involvement in Holloway’s disappearance. He was released three days later.
Van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers were released on Sept. 3, 2005, but at that time, they remained under investigation. Van der Sloot soon left the Caribbean island but was required to remain in Dutch territory under the terms of his release.
What happened after he was released?
Upon his 2005 release, van der Sloot made multiple media appearances in an attempt to clear his name and even authored his own autobiographical account of Holloway’s disappearance in Dutch.
In a 2006 interview with ABC News’ Chris Cuomo, he gave his version of what happened the night of Holloway’s disappearance, proclaiming his innocence and arguing that U.S. media had painted him “unfairly” as a “murderer and a rapist.”
“In Aruba, that was part of my lifestyle ... going out, being single and picking up girls,” he said. “Going out with them, having a good time and then saying goodbye.”
Van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers were arrested again on Nov. 21, 2007, after investigators said they had new evidence, but they were released the next month. The case was dropped on Dec 18, 2007, according to CNN.
In 2008, prosecutors in Aruba said that van der Sloot had been secretly taped describing how, on the day of her disappearance, Holloway began to shake and slumped over as if she was having a seizure as the two were kissing on the beach. Although Aruban prosecutors said the taped confession was admissible in court, it was insufficient to warrant an arrest.
Van der Sloot moved to Thailand that same year.
What charges were filed against van der Sloot in the U.S.?
Between March and May 2010, van der Sloot contacted Holloway’s mother through her lawyer and demanded $250,000 in exchange for information he said he could provide about where Holloway was buried, according to a federal indictment at the time.
According to the indictment, Holloway’s mother eventually paid him $25,000 for the information, with promises to pay the rest after Holloway’s remains were found. But the information van der Sloot provided proved to be false, and the FBI launched an investigation.
A grand jury indicted van der Sloot in July 2010 on charges of extortion and wire fraud, but he was not immediately arrested because he had just been arrested in a separate case in South America.
What happened in South America?
Five years after Holloway disappeared, van der Sloot, now 22 years old, was accused of killing a 21-year-old Peruvian woman by luring her to his hotel room in Lima and beating her to death, according to Interpol.
Van der Sloot was arrested on June 3, 2010, in Chile in connection with the death of Stephany Flores Ramirez, the daughter of well-known businessman and car racer Ricardo Flores. Hotel staff in Lima found her body on June 2, 2010, and van der Sloot was extradited to Peru.
In a signed confession translated by The Associated Press, van der Sloot said that he and Flores had gone back to his hotel room to play poker on his laptop around 5:30 a.m. on May 30, 2010, exactly five years after Holloway had disappeared. Van der Sloot claimed in the confession that Flores had seen an email to him containing a death threat, and that he told her he had been a suspect in Holloway’s case. He said she then hit him, and he elbowed her in the nose. According to the document, he then strangled her.
Van der Sloot pleaded guilty to Flores’ murder almost two years later on Jan 11, 2012, and was sentenced to 28 years in prison and required to pay $75,000 to the Flores family.
Where are we today?
In 2021, van der Sloot faced an additional 18-year sentence after he was accused of smuggling cocaine into prison, the Netherlands Times reported.
He was initially set to be extradited to the U.S. after he finished his sentence in Peru, but Peruvian officials agreed in May to temporarily transfer him earlier, the AP reported.
Van der Sloot arrived in the U.S. surrounded by federal agents on Thursday.
In a statement following van der Sloot’s not-guilty plea on Friday, John Q. Kelly, the attorney representing Beth Holloway since her daughter’s disappearance, said Holloway’s family is “thrilled” that the arraignment took place, calling it a step closer to holding him accountable for his role in the case.
“For nearly two decades, Beth has tirelessly sought answers and fought for justice for her beloved daughter,” the statement said. “The journey has been emotionally and legally arduous, filled with countless obstacles, but Beth’s determination has never wavered. Today, she finds solace in the fact that the wheels of justice are finally turning and that van der Sloot will have to atone for his crimes on U.S. soil.”
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