Nearly two decades after Natalee Holloway vanished in Aruba, Joran van der Sloot finally confessed to killing her, revealing that he kicked her in the face when she refused his sexual advances, and then bludgeoned her to death with a cinder block.
Van der Sloot, who has been the prime suspect in Holloway’s disappearance and death in 2005, appeared in a Birmingham, Alabama court on Wednesday where he pleaded guilty to trying to extort $250,000 from her mother Beth Holloway in exchange for information about the location of her body.
Holloway was declared dead in 2012, but her body has never been found. US District Judge Anna Manasco said it’s clear her remains will never be recovered.
Van der Sloot received a 20-year sentence on each of the two convictions on the extortion charges. Those sentences will run concurrently with each other and also concurrently with his 28-year sentence in Peru for the murder of Stephany Flores in 2010. He will now return to Peru to serve the rest of his time.
“After 18 years, Natalee’s case is solved,” Beth Holloway said with a smile shortly after the hearing ended. “It’s over. Joran van der Sloot is no longer a suspect in my daughter’s murder. He IS the killer.”
The Dutch national from Aruba is not charged in Holloway’s death. But just before he was sentenced, Holloway’s mother made a statement revealing he had confessed to the murder during a proffer, held as part of a plea deal, admitting he had bludgeoned her to death and then disposed of her body into the ocean. And he did it alone.
“You changed the course of our lives and you turned them upside down,” Beth Holloway said in court, standing just a few feet from van der Sloot. “You are a killer. You have finally admitted that, in fact, you murdered her.”
A transcript of the proffer was later released that revealed how van der Sloot carried out the brutal slaying on the night of 30 May 2005.
He explained how they were walking along the beach in Aruba when he laid her down in the sand and they started kissing. When he started to “feel her up,” he said Holloway told him no, but he kept going.
“She said no, but I insist. I keep feeling her up and she knees me in the crotch,” according to the transcript. “I get up on the beach and I kick her extremely hard in the face.”
Van der Sloot then said, according to the transcript, that he saw she was “unconscious, possibly even dead, but definitely unconscious.”
“I see a huge cinder block and I smash her head completely,” he said. “Smash her face in. It’s dark but I see her face is smashed in.”
Van der Sloot goes on to explain that he did not know what to do and that he was scared so he pulled her body into the ocean, pushed her into the water and walked home.
“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.”
Van der Sloot wore an orange jumpsuit as he stood to address the court.
“I would like to take this chance to apologise to the Holloway family, to apologise to my own family,” he said, adding that he is now a Christian. “I am no longer that person I was back then.”
Attorney John Q. Kelly, who represented Holloway’s mother during the alleged extortion attempt, said the plea deal was contingent on van der Sloot providing details about what happened to Holloway. Her parents were able to listen in on the confession that he told prosecutors prior to the hearing.
Before the sentencing, Judge Manasco said she considered van der Sloot’s confession to Holloway’s murder as part of the decision.
“You have brutally murdered, in separate instances years apart, two young women who refused your sexual advances,” the judge said.
“You knew the information you were selling was an absolute lie,” Judge Manasco added, speaking of his extortion of Beth Holloway.
The judge said the pain of Holloway’s death was compounded by the fact that her “family has not found and will not find her remains.”
Holloway’s case has captivated the public’s attention for nearly two decades, spawning extensive news coverage, books, movies and podcasts. A heavy media presence assembled outside the federal courthouse nearly three hours before the hearing Wednesday.
Holloway was 18 years old when she vanished during a high school graduation trip with classmates to Aruba. She was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot, a student at an international school.
The mysterious disappearance sparked years of news coverage and true crime podcasts, books and movies. Van der Sloot was identified as a main suspect and was detained for questioning but no charges were filed in the case.
Holloway’s family has long sought answers about her disappearance. But those answers have proven elusive as van der Sloot has given a variety of conflicting descriptions over the years about what happened.
Federal investigators in the Alabama case said van der Sloot gave a false location of Holloway’s body during a recorded 2010 FBI sting that captured the extortion attempt.
Prosecutors in the Alabama case said van der Sloot contacted Kelly in 2010 and asked for $250,000 from Beth Holloway to reveal the location of her daughter’s remains.
Van der Sloot agreed to accept $25,000 to disclose the location, and asked for the other $225,000 once the remains were recovered, prosecutors said.
Van der Sloot said Holloway was buried in the gravel under the foundation of a house, but later admitted that was untrue, FBI Agent William K. Bryan wrote in a 2010 sworn statement filed in the case.
Van der Sloot moved from Aruba to Peru before he could be arrested in the extortion case.
He was extradited from Peru to Alabama in June for the extortion case. U.S. authorities agreed to return him to Peruvian custody after his case is concluded.
If his prison sentence in Peru ends early, van der Sloot will finish out the rest of his time for the extortion conviction in the United States. However, because the statute of limitations for murder in Aruba is 12 years, he will not be charged with Natalee’s murder, despite confessing to her killing.
Her family said the confession is justice to them.
“This confession means we have finally reached the end of this never ending nightmare,” Beth Holloway said.