By BETH HEMPHILL, CHANLEY PAINTER
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Court TV) — Chilling details of Joran van der Sloot’s confession provided some closure to an Alabama family who had been grieving the unsolved disappearance and presumed death of Natalee Holloway for 18 years now.
Outside the federal courthouse in downtown Birmingham, lines of journalists and paparazzi gathered to see the chief suspect in the 2005 Natalee Holloway case, Joran van der Sloot, appear in court for a plea and sentencing hearing.
Court TV legal correspondent Chanley Painter described the scene outside as unlike anything she’s seen since the Alex Murdaugh trial. Tents, media and onlookers were scattered across downtown Birmingham, waiting for the opportunity to learn critical details about the disappearance and presumed death of Natalee.
Inside the courthouse, which Painter says was standing room only, Natalee’s parents, Beth and Dave Holloway, sat with the prosecution, feet away from the man finally claiming responsibility for their daughter’s brutal murder in 2005.
According to the plea agreement, in 2010, van der Sloot solicited money from Natalee’s mother on promises he would reveal the location of her daughter’s remains in Aruba and the circumstances of her death. However, after being paid $25,100, van der Sloot provided information that he later described as “worthless.”
Van der Sloot is not charged in Holloway’s death. The Dutch citizen was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison for extortion and wire fraud, but as part of his plea agreement, that sentence will run concurrently with his sentence in Peru, where he’s serving a 28-year prison sentence for killing Stephany Flores in 2010.
A judge had declared Natalee deceased, but her body has never been found. Van der Sloot confirmed any doubts that remained after explaining in detail through a taped interview transcript that he did indeed murder Natalee after she refused his sexual advances on the beach outside the Mariott hotel in Aruba.
According to the transcript, van der Sloot says he first kicked Natalee unconscious, before bludgeoning her to death with a cinder block laying on the beach. Van der Sloot then said he waded knee-high into the water and put Natalee’s lifeless body out to sea.
According to the sentencing memorandum and plea agreement, van der Sloot’s plea agreement was contingent upon him providing full, complete, accurate, and truthful information regarding Natalee Holloway’s disappearance in exchange for a sentence of 20 years.
The court permitted victim impact statements from the Holloway family. Natalie’s mother spoke directly to her daughter’s killer, saying, “You are a killer.” She also acknowledged Joran’s own child, saying, “Imagine if someone did to your daughter what you did to my daughter!”
Painter said at this moment, she could see Joran using his orange jailhouse shirt to wipe what could have been tears from his face several times.
Painter detailed a poignant moment when Beth Holloway paused in the middle of her victim impact statement and looked over to Joran and said, “And by the way, Joran, you look like hell. I don’t know how you’re going to make it.” It was at that moment Chanley described the packed courthouse exploded in support of Natalee’s mom and her strength throughout this 18-year-long fight.
As part of his plea agreement, the 20-year sentence will run concurrently with his 28-year sentence in Peru.
Prosecutors and the judge explained that when his proffer was given, they had the best investigators in the world to vet his confession — that he acted alone when he killed Natalee, and that her body will never be found.
Van der Sloot also agreed to take a polygraph test, which corroborated his confession.
Beth Holloway also pointed out that Joran’s confession helps his own family heal from the horrors caused by Joran’s conflicting accounts over the years. Federal investigators in the Alabama case said van der Sloot gave a false location of Natalee’s body during a recorded 2010 FBI sting that captured the extortion attempt. Now that the truth is out, all those suspicions can finally be put to rest.
Court TV’s Chanley Painter stated summarized her sentiments for any remaining skeptics, saying, “What matters here is what the Holloways believe, right? They are the ones who have suffered for eighteen years because of this. And if they are good with it, I’m good with it. We’re all good with it.”
The government of Peru agreed to temporarily extradite van der Sloot 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.