Chief suspect in Natalee Holloway disappearance pleads not guilty in related extortion case
Joran Van der Sloot, the chief suspect in Natalee Holloway’s 2005 disappearance on the island of Aruba, walked into an Alabama courtroom in shackles on Friday as her parents looked on.
He pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to extort money from the missing woman’s mother in exchange for revealing the location of her daughter’s remains.
Van der Sloot is not on trial for harming Holloway. However, the extortion and wire fraud charges are based on allegations that link the Dutch citizen to her disappearance on the final night of her high school graduation trip with classmates. Holloway, 18, was last seen leaving a bar with Van der Sloot, who was a student at an international school on the island, where he grew up.
Van der Sloot, now 35, was extradited Thursday from Peru, where he’s serving a 28-year sentence after confessing to killing a Peruvian woman in 2010 — five years to the day after Holloway went missing.
Joran van der Sloot is wanted in the U.S. on extortion and wire fraud counts connected to Holloway’s 2005 disappearance on the Caribbean island of Aruba.
Holloway’s mother, father and brother were in the courtroom Friday. Beth Holloway occasionally stared at Van der Sloot but otherwise showed no obvious emotion.
“The wheels of justice have finally begun to turn for our family,” she wrote in a statement. “It has been a very long and painful journey.”
Van der Sloot, wearing jeans and a white T-shirt, declined to use a Dutch interpreter offered to him at Friday’s arraignment, saying, “I don’t think it’s necessary.” During the brief court proceeding, he entered a plea of not guilty through his attorney and answered “yes” when asked whether he understood his rights.
Afterward, Beth Holloway hugged friends who had come to offer their support. She declined to comment outside the courthouse.
Her spokesperson, George Seymore, told reporters that seeing Van der Sloot in court “was chilling but at the same time gratifying.”
The Peruvian government says the main suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of American student Natalee Holloway will be extradited to the U.S.
Natalee Holloway’s mysterious disappearance sparked years of news coverage and numerous true-crime podcasts. Weeks after she went missing, Van der Sloot was identified as a main suspect and detained for questioning along with two Surinamese brothers, but no charges were filed in the case.
A judge later declared Holloway dead, but her body has never been found.
Prosecutors in the U.S. say that in 2010, Van der Sloot sought money from Beth Holloway in exchange for leading her to her daughter’s body. A grand jury indicted him that year on those allegations.
In 2012, Van der Sloot pleaded guilty in Peru to killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores, a business student from a prominent Peruvian family, in 2010.
Joran van der Sloot, the main suspect in the 2005 disappearance of American student Natalee Holloway, plans to challenge his extradition to the U.S.
Van der Sloot married a Peruvian woman in July 2014 in a ceremony at a maximum-security prison. He was shuffled between prisons in Peru after reports that he was enjoying privileges like television, internet access and a cellphone, and accusations that he’d threatened to kill a warden.
Peru has agreed to let Van der Sloot remain in U.S. custody until the case in Alabama is concluded, including through the appeals process if he is convicted, according to a resolution published in Peru’s federal register. U.S. authorities agreed to return him to Peru’s custody after that, the resolution states.
Cindy Rysedorph, a friend of the Holloways, said they’re doing as well as could be expected.
“It’s progress,” she said. “I’m so grateful that he’s here.”
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