BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The chief suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway had to say what happened to her as part of a plea deal on charges he tried to extort money from Holloway’s mother years later, a judge said Wednesday.
The disclosure came during a plea and sentencing hearing for Joran van der Sloot, who is accused of trying to get money from Holloway’s mother in exchange for revealing the location of her daughter’s body.
Van der Sloot pleaded guilty to extortion and wire fraud charges. An attorney who represented Holloway’s mother during the alleged extortion said earlier that the plea agreement called for the Dutch citizen to provide more information about what happened to Holloway.
Van der Sloot is not charged in Holloway’s death. But before he was sentenced, Beth Holloway made a statement saying van der Sloot had acknowledged murdering her daughter.
Holloway went missing during a high school graduation trip with classmates. She was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot. He was questioned in the disappearance but was never prosecuted. A judge declared Holloway dead, but her body has never been found.
The hearing, which will be attended by Holloway’s family and held a few miles from the suburb where Holloway lived, was a key development in the case that captivated the public’s attention for nearly two decades, spawning extensive news coverage, books, movies and podcasts.
A heavy media presence had begun assembling outside the federal courthouse nearly three hours before the hearing.
Holloway’s family has long sought answers about her disappearance. Van der Sloot gave different accounts over the years of that night in Aruba. 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.
The government of Peru agreed to temporarily extradite van der Sloot, who is serving a 28-year prison sentence for killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores in 2010, so he could face trial on the extortion charge in the United States. U.S. authorities agreed to return him to Peruvian custody after his case is concluded, according to a resolution published in Peru’s federal register.
“The wheels of justice have finally begun to turn for our family,” Beth Holloway said in June after van der Sloot arrived in Alabama. “It has been a very long and painful journey.”