Van der Sloot Disclosure Reverberates, Teen’s Family Hopes for New Leads
The family and friends of an Alabama teenager who vanished in Aruba are hoping for answers after the main suspect in her disappearance confessed to killing a young Peruvian woman.
Dutchman Joran van der Sloot, 22, admitted to Peruvian police Monday that he killed Stephany Flores, 21, on May 30, Peru's chief police spokesman, Col. Abel Gamarra, told the Associated Press.
The killing occurred five years to the day that Natalee Holloway, 18, disappeared on the Caribbean island of Aruba while celebrating her high school graduation.
Van der Sloot, one of three men who left a bar with Holloway the night she was last seen, was arrested twice in her case. He gave conflicting versions of events, but Aruban authorities freed him for lack of evidence.
Terry Oden, Republican mayor of Mountain Brook, the suburban Birmingham community where Holloway lived, said police and prosecutors in Aruba botched the investigation.
"They were like the Keystone Cops," said Oden, a retired Secret Service agent. The murder in Peru could have been prevented if Aruban authorities had done a better job preserving evidence and questioning suspects and witnesses, Oden said.
Because so much time has passed, the only hope of solving Holloway's disappearance is if van der Sloot confesses, he said.
Aruban authorities did not return calls for comment.
Holloway's parents continue to seek closure. Her father, David Holloway, told Good Morning America on Tuesday that van der Sloot should tell all he knows about the disappearance of his daughter. He said search teams are on the ground in Aruba in case Peruvian police learn anything that could help find her.
"I'd like for him to tell everyone what happened," he said.
Natalee's mother, Beth, opened the Natalee Holloway Resource Center at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington on Tuesday. Beth Holloway said the center will provide services she did not have when her daughter disappeared, such as access to government and news media contacts and help organizing volunteers.
"I feel confident that it will serve as a point of light for all missing," she said while standing before two photos of her daughter. "Let's remind ourselves (to) keep the Flores family in our hearts and in our prayers."
In an e-mail, she added: "If raising awareness to prevent crime saves just one life - it's worth all the hard work."
The FBI asked Holloway not to comment on the murder in Peru, said Janine Vaccarello, chief operating officer of the museum.
Vaccarello said Holloway is channeling her grief into the center. "Beth has come to grips that the confession was real," she said of van der Sloot's conflicting versions of his involvement.
Federal prosecutors in Birmingham charged van der Sloot on June 3 with wire fraud and extortion for soliciting $250,000 from Natalee Holloway's family in May in exchange for telling them the location of her body and describing how she died, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said.
Rep. Spencer Bachus, a Republican who represents Mountain Brook, said the teen's disappearance has resonated nationwide.
"It's had an impact on parents in the last five years to caution their children, 'When you are in a strange city or a strange place, you don't take up with strangers,' " he said.
He praised Peruvian police for their quick work. "I think van der Sloot has met his match," he said.