Prime suspect admits to Natalee Holloway’s 2005 murder in Aruba, gets plea deal in extortion case
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The chief suspect in Natalee Holloway’s 2005 disappearance in Aruba admitted he killed her and disposed of her remains, and has agreed to plead guilty to charges he tried to extort money from the teen’s mother years later, a U.S. judge said Wednesday,
The disclosure came during a plea and sentencing hearing for Joran van der Sloot, 36, in a federal courtroom in Alabama — just a few miles from the Birmingham suburb where Holloway used to live.
“You changed the course of our lives and you turned them upside down,” her mother Beth Holloway said in court, standing a few feet from van der Sloot. “You are a killer.”
Van der Sloot is not charged in Holloway’s death. The Dutch citizen was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison for extortion and wire fraud, but as part of his plea agreement, that sentence will run concurrently with his sentence in Peru, where he’s serving a 28-year prison sentence for killing Stephany Flores in 2010.
U.S. Judge Anna Manasco said she considered van der Sloot’s confession to Holloway’s murder and the destruction of her remains as part of the sentencing decision.
“You have brutally murdered, in separate instances years apart, two young women who refused your sexual advances,” the judge said.
Holloway went missing during a high school graduation trip with classmates. She was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot. He was questioned in the disappearance but was never prosecuted. A judge declared Holloway dead, but her body has never been found.
Manasco said the plea deal required van der Sloot to provide all the information he knew about Natalie Holloway’s disappearance.
The case has captivated the public’s attention for nearly two decades, spawning extensive news coverage, books, movies and podcasts. A heavy media presence assembled outside the federal courthouse nearly three hours before the hearing.
Holloway’s family has long sought answers about her disappearance. Van der Sloot gave different accounts over the years of that night in Aruba. Federal investigators in the Alabama case said van der Sloot gave a false location of Holloway’s body during a recorded 2010 FBI sting that captured the extortion attempt.
Prosecutors in the Alabama case said van der Sloot asked for $250,000 from Beth Holloway to reveal the location of her daughter’s remains. Van der Sloot agreed to accept $25,000 to disclose the location, and asked for the other $225,000 once the remains were recovered, prosecutors said. Van der Sloot said Holloway was buried in the gravel under the foundation of a house, but later admitted that was untrue, FBI Agent William K. Bryan wrote in a 2010 sworn statement filed in the case.
Van der Sloot moved from Aruba to Peru before he could be arrested in the extortion case.
The government of Peru agreed to temporarily extradite van der Sloot so he could face trial on the extortion charge in the United States. U.S. authorities agreed to return him to Peruvian custody after his case is concluded, according to a resolution published in Peru’s federal register.
“The wheels of justice have finally begun to turn for our family,” Beth Holloway said in June after van der Sloot arrived in Alabama. “It has been a very long and painful journey.”