I remember hearing about this case when it happened. It was one we all prayed would turn out positively but seventeen years later, the mystery remains. Where is Natalee Holloway and what happened to her?
Natalee was born October 21, 1986, she had graduated from Mountain Brook High School less than a week before she disappeared. For her graduation trip she had gone with 124 fellow classmates to Aruba in the Caribbean for a five-day unofficial graduation trip and was supposed to fly home to Alabama on May 30, 2005. There were seven chaperones on the trip. Unfortunately, she didn’t make her flight home.
Natalee’s luggage was packed, and it was located in her Holiday Inn room with her passport. Authorities searched for her throughout the island and surrounding water but did not find her.
Natalee, enjoying her time away from home, drank excessively. In fact, she didn’t show up for breakfast two mornings. The last time she was seen was on Monday morning at 1.30am when she was outside of Carlos ‘n Charlie’s a restaurant and nightclub in Oranjestad. She had left in a car with 17-year-old Joran Van der Sloot a Dutch honors student living in Aruba and two Surinamese brothers, 21-year-old Deepak Kalpoe and his 18-year-old brother Satish.
After her disappearance the three young men were questioned, and they claimed they had dropped Natalee off at her hotel and didn’t know what had happened to her after that. Immediately after she missed her flight, her mother and stepfather flew with friends to Aruba on a private jet and after arriving on the island went to the police. They provided the name and address of Joran Van der Sloot. Beth Twitty, Natalee’s mother, stated that the night manager at the hotel recognized him and provided her with his full name.
Arriving at the Van der Sloot home, with two policemen, Joran denied knowing her name. But then he told a second story, one that Deepak corroborated as he too was in the house at the time of the visit. Joran stated that they drove Natalee to the California Lighthouse area as she wanted to see sharks but returned her to her hotel around 2am. As they were driving away from Natalee at the hotel, they saw her being approached by a dark man in a black shirt similar to a security guard.
A massive search effort began, divers searched the ocean and planes were flying overhead to locate Natalee Holloway. There were hundreds of volunteers from Aruba and the United States. Her remains were never found.
Joran Van der Sloot, and the Kalpoe brothers had been arrested multiple times, but due to lack of evidence they were all released and never charged. On November 30, a judge ordered the release of the Kalpoe brothers. Despite attempts by the prosecution to extend their detention, the brothers were released on the following day.
The prosecution appealed their release, which was denied on December 5, with the court writing, “Notwithstanding expensive and lengthy investigations on her disappearance and on people who could be involved, the file against the suspect does not contain direct indications that Natalee passed away due to a violent crime.” Van der Sloot was released without charge on December 7 due to lack of evidence implicating him as well as a lack of evidence that Holloway died as the result of a violent crime. The prosecution indicated it would not appeal.
The closing of the case lasted less than two months. On February 1, 2008, the case was reopened when the prosecutor’s office received video footage of Joran, under the influence of marijuana state that Natalee Holloway died on the morning of her disappearance and that a friend had disposed of her. He later denied this but stated that he instead sold her into sexual slavery. This comment would also be retracted.
The video, aired on February 3, 2008, and included excerpts from footage that recorded Joran Van der Sloot smoking marijuana and stating that he was with Natalee Holloway when she began convulsively shaking, then became unresponsive. He stated that he attempted to revive her, without success. He said that he called a friend, who told Van der Sloot to go home and who disposed of the body. An individual reputed to be this friend, identified in the broadcast as Daury, has denied Van der Sloot’s account, indicating that he was then in Rotterdam at school.
The stories between the three suspects in the case changed often. Initially all three denied being with her in the car. Then they said they dropped her at her hotel about 2am and saw her being approached by a man in a black shirt. They also stated they didn’t drop her at the hotel and instead they went to see sharks, but then Joran and Natalee were dropped off at fishermen’s huts near the Marriott Hotel beach. Joran stated he didn’t harm her and left her on the beach at her own insistence.
Joran Van der Sloot insisted that Natalee wanted to have sex with him on the beach, but they did not as he didn’t have a condom with him. He claims she wanted him to stay on the beach with her, but he had school in the morning and was not able to stay with her. That is when he said Satish Kalpoe picked him up around 3am and left Natalee at the beach. This statement is denied by Satish and his attorney as he stated he had gone home to sleep and never returned to pick up Joran.
On March 29, 2010, Joran Van der Sloot contacted John Q. Kelly, Beth Twitty’s legal representative, with an offer to reveal the location of Holloway’s body and the circumstances surrounding her death, if he were given advance of US$25,000 against a total of $250,000. After Kelly notified the FBI, they arranged to proceed with the transaction. Authorities stated that the information that he provided in return was false because the house in which he said Holloway’s body was located had not yet been built at the time of her disappearance.
The entire time the legal circus was happening, Dave Holloway kept searching for his daughter. He used cadaver dogs, any shred of possibility was investigated and all for nothing, Natalee Holloway was never found.
On May 30, 2010—five years to the day after Holloway’s disappearance—Stephany Flores Ramírez, a 21-year-old business student, was reported missing in Lima, Peru. She was found dead three days later in a hotel room registered in Joran Van der Sloot’s name. On June 3, he was arrested in Chile on a murder charge and extradited to Peru the next day. On June 7, Peruvian authorities said that Joran Van der Sloot confessed to killing Flores after he lost his temper because she accessed his laptop without permission and found information linking him to Holloway.
Police chief César Guardia related that Van der Sloot told Peruvian police that he knew where Holloway’s body was and offered to help Aruban authorities find it. However, Guardia stated that the interrogation was limited to their case in Peru, and that questions about Holloway’s disappearance were avoided. On June 11, Van der Sloot was charged in Lima Superior Court with first-degree murder and robbery. On June 15, Aruban and Peruvian authorities announced an agreement to cooperate and allow investigators from Aruba to interview Van der Sloot at Miguel Castro prison in Peru.
In a September 2010 interview from the prison, Van der Sloot reportedly admitted to the extortion plot, stating: “I wanted to get back at Natalee’s family—her parents have been making my life tough for five years.” On January 11, 2012, Van der Sloot pleaded guilty to murdering Flores and was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
In June 2011 (six years after Natalee’s disappearance), Dave Holloway filed a petition with the Alabama courts to have his daughter declared legally dead. The papers were served on his ex-wife Beth Twitty, who announced her intention to oppose the petition. A hearing was held on September 23, 2011, at which time Probate Judge Alan King ruled that Dave Holloway had met the requirements for a legal presumption of death. On January 12, 2012, a second hearing was held, after which Judge King signed the order declaring Natalee Holloway to be dead.
Hopefully wherever she is, Natalee Holloway is no longer in danger, and may she be able to rest peacefully for eternity.
Stay Curious my Friends!