Natalee Holloway’s killer admits to beating Alabama woman on an Aruba beach

Natalee Holloway 2005 Aruba murder victim

The chief suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway has admitted he beat the young Alabama woman to death on a beach in Aruba after she refused his advances, then dumped her body into the sea.

New details in the killing emerged today as Joran van der Sloot pleaded guilty to extorting Holloway’s mother, resolving a case that has captivated the public’s attention for nearly 20 years.

Although he isn’t charged in Holloway’s death, van der Sloot’s attempt to squeeze a quarter million dollars from the slain teen’s mom gave investigators a crucial link to the 2005 killing. And after finally seeing him in a U.S. courtroom, the family said they’re moving on from years of doubt and uncertainty.

The Dutch citizen pleaded guilty today and was sentenced for his role in a scheme to obtain $250,000 from Elizabeth (“Beth”) Ann Holloway, the mother of his murder victim.

The guilty plea and sentencing of Joran Andreas Petrus van der Sloot, 36, occurred before U.S. District Court Judge Anna M. Manasco. 

Van der Sloot pleaded guilty to extortion and wire fraud and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. 

According to the plea agreement, in 2010, van der Sloot solicited money from Beth Holloway, Natalee Holloway’s mother, on promises he would reveal the location of her daughter’s remains in Aruba and the circumstances of her 2005 death.

However, after being paid a total of $25,100, van der Sloot provided information that he later described as “worthless.”

According to the sentencing memorandum and plea agreement, van der Sloot agreed to provide full, complete, accurate, and truthful information regarding Natalee Holloway’s disappearance in exchange for a sentence of 20 years. 

“Today, the United States held Joran van der Sloot accountable for his scheme to exploit a mother looking for information about her missing daughter,” said U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona. “The United States hopes that the information regarding Natalee Holloway’s disappearance provides some important answers for the family and the community that has followed this family’s tragedy. Today’s result would not have been possible without the help of the FBI, Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and the Government of Peru, the Netherlands and Aruba, U.S. Marshals Service, and Shelby County Sherriff’s Office, who assisted in this process.  I am grateful for their hard work and dedication.  May this long-awaited day finally bring justice for Beth and for Natalee’s family and friends.”

“Today’s sentence holds Joran van der Sloot accountable for the pain he has caused the family and friends of Natalee Holloway,” said Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Carlton Peeples.  “After more than a decade of uncertainty, hopefully, this will bring them and this community some closure.”

“During this lengthy investigation, the FBI remained committed in aggressively pursuing and holding this individual accountable for the crimes he committed against US persons,” said Peeples.  “I would like to thank our local, state, federal, and foreign partners who assisted in this investigation and a special thanks to all the FBI personnel, past and present, who worked tirelessly in bringing this individual to justice.”

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s over,” Beth Holloway, Natalee’s mother, told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Alabama. “Joran van der Sloot is no longer the suspect in my daughter’s murder. He is the killer.”

Natalee Holloway went missing during a high school graduation trip with classmates. She was last seen on May 30, 2005, leaving a bar with van der Sloot, a Dutch citizen and student at an international school on the Caribbean island where he grew up. He was questioned in the disappearance but never prosecuted. A judge declared Holloway dead, but her body was never found.

Now 36, he has pleaded guilty to one count each of extortion and wire fraud in exchange for a 20-year sentence. That prison term will run concurrently with a 28-year sentence he’s serving in Peru for killing Stephany Flores in 2010.

U.S. Judge Anna Manasco said the details of his confession factored into her sentencing decision.

“You have brutally murdered — in separate instances years apart — two young women who refused your sexual advances,” she said.

Shackled and wearing an orange jail uniform, van der Sloot told the crowded courtroom he hopes his confession provides closure.

“I would like the chance to apologize to the Holloway family, my own family,” he said, later adding, “I am no longer the person I was back then.”

Mark White, an attorney for Natalee’s father Dave Holloway, believes van der Sloot cannot be prosecuted in Aruba — even with his confession — because the statute of limitations has expired.

However, the Aruba public prosecutor’s office said it was not immediately clear whether van der Sloot could face murder charges on the island. The investigation into Holloway’s disappearance is still open and authorities “will follow up on any serious leads,” said Ann Angela, a prosecutor’s office spokesperson.

Manasco, the U.S. judge, said the plea deal required van der Sloot to provide all the information he knew about Natalie Holloway’s disappearance, allow her parents to hear in “real time” his discussion with law enforcement, and take a polygraph test.

Court documents offer a transcript of his confession.

In an interview conducted by his attorney, he says he and Holloway were lying on the beach kissing. She started to resist, but he kept touching her, so she kneed him between the legs. He stood up and kicked her “extremely hard” in the face while she was still lying down.

At that point, he said, she was “unconscious, possibly even uh, even dead, but definitely unconscious.” He said he picked up a nearby cinderblock and brought it down on her face.

Frightened and unsure what to do, he said he dragged her body until he was knee-deep in the waves, then pushed her out to sea.

After the hearing, Beth Holloway told reporters she was “absolutely confident” that they finally got the truth from van der Sloot after years of lies.

The Holloway family has long sought answers about the disappearance, and van der Sloot has given shifting accounts over the years. At one point he said Holloway was buried in gravel under the foundation of a house, but later admitting that was untrue.

Van der Sloot chose “greed over Beth Holloway’s grief,” prosecutor Lloyd Peeples told the judge Wednesday.

Five years after the killing, an FBI sting recorded the extortion attempt in which van der Sloot asked Beth Holloway to pay him $250,000 so he would tell her where to find her daughter’s body. He agreed to accept $25,000 to disclose the location, and asked for the other $225,000 once the remains were recovered.

But before he could be arrested in the extortion case, van der Sloot slipped away by moving from Aruba to Peru. The South American country agreed to temporarily extradite him to the U.S. to face trial on the extortion charge, and he will return to Peruvian custody after his case is concluded.

“You are a killer,” Beth Holloway told the court in her impact statement. “I want you to remember that every time that jail door slams.”

She later turned to stare straight at her daughter’s killer, sitting just a few feet away.

“You look like hell, Joran,” she said.

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