Natalee Holloway justice? Joran Van der Sloot gets 28 years
Natalee Holloway is a name likely to haunt a generation of U.S. parents. The teenager from Mountain Brook, Ala., went to Aruba in 2005 as part of a senior high school trip to celebrate her graduation -- and was never heard from again. Many believe she was killed by Dutch national Joran Van der Sloot or, at the very least, that he knows what happened to her.
Van der Sloot was sentenced Friday in Peru to serve 28 years in a prison for fatally beating another young woman, Stephany Flores, 21, in his hotel room in Lima. It's unusual for such a murder case in a foreign land to make headlines in America. But U.S. media have covered this case because it gives a bittersweet measure of solace to the grieving Holloway family -- and to all parents who can feel their suffering.
Flores and Holloway's parents never met. But Flores possibly met her end while trying to help Natalee Holloway's family.
Investigators have long believed that Van der Sloot violently turned on the Flores after she found something, perhaps a clue, related to Holloway on his computer.
Flores' murder took place May 30, 2010. That's precisely five years to the day that Holloway was seen leaving a nightclub in Aruba with Van der Sloot and two other men on May 30, 2005.
After that night, Holloway vanished.
Her disappearance made international headlines and triggered a massive, multiagency search that included sifting the bottom of the ocean floor off Aruba in a bid for clues.
Over the years, Van der Sloot has told law enforcement officials, as well as the media, conflicting stories about Holloway. In one scenario, he politely dropped Holloway off at her hotel. In another, he left her, alone, on the beach after she collapsed. He also claimed at one point that he sold her into sexual slavery. And, of course, he has said that he had nothing at all to do with Holloway's disappearance.
While U.S. authorities did not have the jurisdiction to charge him in Holloway's disappearance, they have not given up hope that he will someday be forced to face charges in a U.S. courtroom.
In another turn of events, Van der Sloot allegedly contacted Holloway's mother, Beth, and promised to reveal everything about his daughter's disappearance -- in exchange for $250,000.
The FBI, which became involved in the alleged 2010 extortion plot, set up a sting to capture Van der Sloot. But he fled to Peru with a down payment of several thousand dollars that was wired to him as part of the negotiations.
In a sad coincidence, Holloway's family was in court this week for a previously scheduled hearing. The matter? A formal declaration of her death, necessary so that her parents can tend to matters related to the teen's meager estate.
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Photo: Joran Van der Sloot arrives in court Friday for his sentencing. Credit: Karel Navarro / Associated Press