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Natalee Holloway case: Van der Sloot still faces charges in U.S.

January 12, 2012 | 12:16 pm


Joran Van der Sloot faces up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced Friday in the beating death of a 21-year-old woman in a hotel room in Lima, Peru. But U.S. authorities nonetheless refuse to give up on plans to force the Danish national to answer charges filed in Alabama in connection with the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.

The 18-year-old from Mountain Brook, Ala., was seen leavaing an Aruba nightclub with Van der Sloot and two other men on May 30, 2005. She was never heard from again. The high school senior had been visiting the picturesque island as part of a class trip to celebrate graduation. Her disappearance made international headlines and triggered a massive, multiagency search.

Van der Sloot seems to have told law enforcement officials, as well as the media, many conflicting stories in connection with Holloway's disappearance. He said he dropped Holloway off at her hotel after leaving the nightclub. He said that he left her, alone, on the beach after she collapsed. He said that he sold her into sexual slavery. And, of course, he said he had nothing to do with Holloway's disappearance. Through it all, island law enforcement authorities have said they can't find enough evidence against Van der Sloot to charge him.

The uncertainty has been torturous for Holloway's parents. Federal authorities say that Van der Sloot tried to prey on their desperation by extorting Holloway's mother, Beth. In 2010, he allegedly contacted an intermediary with an offer to reveal all -- including what happened to Holloway and information about where her remains could be found -- in exchange for $250,000.

The FBI secretly became involved and arranged to have $15,000 sent to Van der Sloot in exchange for some information; the information turned out to be be false, authorities say.

Federal extortion and wire fraud charges were filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern Alabama. Those charges are still pending, despite Van der Sloot's pending sentencing, authorities said this week.

"No, we are not giving up, nothing has changed," Peggy Sanford, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Birmingham, told The Times. "We still want him here. When that will happen, we do not know."

Exactly five years to the day after Holloway's disappearance, Van der Sloot killed Stephany Flores in his hotel room in Lima. (He is believed to have paid for the trip to Peru, as well as the hotel room, in part with the money from the alleged extortion plot. That has led to criticism that the FBI officials investigating the extortion should have been in position to capture Van der Sloot before he fled, and before he killed.)

He formally admitted his guilt in a courtroom earlier this week.

And in yet another blow to the Holloway family, Van der Sloot, now 24, tried to use Natalee Holloway's disappearance as a bid for leniency in the case. Van der Sloot's attorney at one point argued that his client was driven to kill Flores as a result of "extreme psychological trauma" he endured after he became a prime suspect in Holloway's disappearance.


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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch