Joran van der Sloot confesses to killing Natalee Holloway in 2005
The Dutch national from Aruba was long suspected in the disappearance and death and pleaded guilty to the extortion of Natalee’s mother, Beth
By Carol Robinson, Ivana Hrynkiw
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In an emotionally charged hearing in Birmingham’s federal court Wednesday morning, it was revealed Joran van der Sloot had confessed to killing Mountain Brook teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005.
“You have finally admitted that, in fact, you murdered her,” a tearful Beth Holloway said in court.
“You terminated her dreams, her potential, her possibilities, when you bludgeoned her to death in 2005,” Holloway said after he pleaded guilty.
“You didn’t get what you wanted from Natalee, your sexual satisfaction, so you brutally killed her....You are the one in Aruba no one wants to be, the black mark on the island,” she said.
Beth Holloway said after Natalee was killed, van der Sloot went home and watched pornography. Holloway said she feels sorry for his mother and grandmother.
“I have no doubt she would have made all her dreams come true. She really would have,” Beth Holloway said of Natalee.
Van der Sloot sat with his attorney in an orange jumpsuit drinking water and showed no visible signs of emotion.
When U.S. District Court Judge Anna Manasco asked if he knew he could be charged with perjury if he lied, van der Sloot said, “yes ma’am.”
Manasco said she thought about rejecting the plea agreement so that if he was convicted at trial she could sentence him to a term consecutive and not concurrent with the one he is serving in Peru. Manasco chose not to do that to keep from losing his confession.
“I would like to take this chance to apologize to the Holloway family, to apologize to my own family, to say I hope the statement I provided brings some kind of closure to everyone involved,” van der Sloot said.
Van der Sloot said he is now a Christian. “I am no longer that person I was back then.”
Van der Sloot, 36, received a 20-year sentence on each of the two convictions. Those sentences will be served concurrently with each other and also concurrently with his sentence in Peru.
It was stated in court he will be “promptly” removed from the U.S. and taken back to Peru.
“I paid my daughter’s killer money. That’s shocking. I don’t think anyone can really wrap their mind around what that means,” Beth Holloway told him.
“By the way you look like Hell, Joran. I do not see how you’re gonna make it....You are a killer and I want you to remember that every time that jail door slams.”
A timeline of the Natalee Holloway case
According to court documents, the judge would consider statements only from the victim of the extortion and wire fraud – Beth Holloway – and members of Natalee’s immediate family. Beth was the only family member who spoke in court.
Van der Sloot plea states he exploited the fear of Holloway’s mother that she would never find her daughter’s body or know what happened to her unless she paid him $250,000.
As part of the agreement, van der Sloot had to take a polygraph which prosecutors said he passed. Natalee’s parents were allowed to hear his confession “in real-time.”
Van der Sloot is currently serving a 28-year prison sentence in Peru for the 2010 murder of Lima college student Stephany Flores. Flores was killed five years to the day Natalee disappeared.
His Peru sentence expires in 2045. Should van der Sloot be released from the Peruvian prison early — for any reason — he would then have to serve the remainder of the 20-year sentence in the U.S.
The extortion case was prosecuted by Lloyd Peeples, chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Criminal Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Crosby.
Van der Sloot, Peeples said, “picked his victim” and in choosing to defraud Beth Holloway, “chose his own greed over Beth Holloway’s grief.”
Manasco called Natalee’s death a “brutal murder” and said the only evidence is his confession to killing her and the “disposal and destruction of her remains.”
“You have brutally murdered two women who refused your sexual advances,” Manasco said.
“You knew the information you were selling was an absolute lie,” Manasco said of his extortion of Beth Holloway.
Manasco said the pain of Natalee’s death was compounded by the fact that her “family has not found and will not find her remains.”
Van der Sloot is represented by Alexandria Darby of the federal public defender’s office. Van der Sloot this morning told the judge he was fully satisfied with his attorneys.
The last time Natalee was seen alive
The 18-year-old visited Aruba on a high school graduation trip in 2005 with 130-plus of her classmates from Mountain Brook High School. If she had lived, Holloway’s 37th birthday would have been later this week.
For several days in May 2005, the teens - of legal drinking age in Aruba - sunned and snorkeled and at night donned sundresses for dinner and partying at Carlos’ N Charlie’s, which at the time was located in downtown Oranjestad.
The group often ended up at Excelsior Casino, which was connected to the Holiday Inn where the Mountain Brook group stayed.
On their last night there, Natalee and her friends met van der Sloot, who lived with family in the nearby Montana neighborhood and attended the Aruba International School.
She was last seen about 1 a.m. getting into a gray Honda with van der Sloot and his friends, the Kalpoe brothers, as they left Carlo ‘N Charlie’s.
Natalee was scheduled to fly home that morning but did not meet the group in the lobby to leave for their flight.
Natalie’s family flew to Aruba immediately.
They, along two Aruban policemen, went to the van der Sloot home looking for Holloway.
Van der Sloot initially denied knowing Natalee, but later said they drove to the California Lighthouse area of Arashi Beach, because Natalee wanted to see sharks, before dropping her off at her hotel around 2 a.m.
Van der Sloot said Natalee fell down as she got out of the car but refused his help. He said she was approached by a man in a black shirt, similar to those worn by security guards, as the young men drove away.
18 years of mystery, hope and alleged extortion
Despite arrests, releases, and more arrests, Aruban prosecutors officially declared Natalee’s case closed in 2007. The following year, they announced they reopened the case but refused to arrest van der Sloot.
Over time, rewards of up to $1 million were offered for Natalee’s safe return. Rewards of up to $250,000 were offered for information leading to her remains.
She was officially declared dead on Jan. 12, 2012.
The U.S. Attorney’s office and FBI said that on May 15, 2010, nearly five years after Natalee vanished, van der Sloot extorted $15,000 as a partial payment, wired from Birmingham to the Netherlands.
He was to be paid a total of $250,000. The information that van der Sloot has provided to that unnamed individual was false, authorities said.
On March 29, 2010, van der Sloot emailed an unidentified representative of Natalee’s mother.
According to charging documents, van der Sloot offered to take the representative to Natalee’s body and tell what happened to her and identify those involved in her death.
Documents state van der Sloot agreed to modify the offer. For an initial payment of $25,000, he would take the Holloway representative to Natalee’s body.
The key figures in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway
Once Natalee’s body was recovered, he would then collect the remaining $225,000.
Van der Sloot emailed his bank account information so the money could be deposited by wire transfer. He insisted, authorities said, on a written contract from Beth Holloway.
The contract faxed to Holloway and signed, on May 10, 2010, charging documents show, the Holloway representative flew to Aruba.
Beth Holloway later wired $10,000 to New York so the representative could have cash available when he met with Van der Sloot.
The representative met with van der Sloot in Aruba and showed him Holloway’s signed agreement.
Van der Sloot and the representative signed two copies of the agreement and took pictures of each other during the signing. The meeting, during which the representative gave van der Sloot the $10,000, was recorded.
Holloway then wired the $15,000 balance to van der Sloot’s Netherlands bank account.
Van der Sloot and the representative got into a rental car and left the hotel, according to the federal affidavit. Van der Sloot pointed out a residence where he said Natalee’s body was left in the foundation.
Van der Sloot said his father, Paulus van der Sloot – who died of a heart attack on Feb. 10, 2010 – had buried Natalee’s body under the foundation of the single-story house.
Van der Sloot said he was with Natalee on May 29, 2010, and had thrown her to the ground after she attempted to stop him from leaving her.
“Van der Sloot claimed that when she fell down, she hit her head on a rock and died,’’ wrote FBI Special Agent William Bryan.
Van der Sloot said he hid Natalee’s body and told his father what happened.
Van der Sloot said his father accompanied him to where he had hidden Natalee’s body. He said he remained in the car while his father buried her body.
“Van der Sloot added that he had not actually seen his father inter the remains,’’ Bryan wrote, “but was told and shown by his father where the body was buried.”
The FBI agent wrote that Aruban law enforcement officials reviewed a building permit for that address – which has not been made public – and found no foundation or structure on the parcel of land at the time of Natalee’s disappearance.
The document indicates that a permit was requested on May 23, 2005, and approved on May 26, 2005. An inspection was conducted on June 15, 2005, and the permit was not issued until Oct. 18, 2010.
“The house identified by Van der Sloot was not under construction at the time of Natalee Holloway’s disappearance,’’ Bryan wrote.
On May 17, 2010, van der Sloot admitted to the representative that he lied about the location of Natalee’s remains and a month later he was charged in Alabama’s federal court with extortion.
Van der Sloot was extradited to Alabama on June 8, 2023, and booked into the Shelby County Jail.