On this day in 2012, Joran van der Sloot, a longtime suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba, pleads guilty to the murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, in Lima, Peru. Flores was killed on May 30, 2010, exactly five years to the day after Holloway went missing while on a high school graduation trip to the Caribbean island.
In May 2010, Van der Sloot, who was born in the Netherlands in 1987 and raised in Dutch-speaking Aruba, was in the Peruvian capital for a poker tournament. He met Flores, a college student and daughter of a prominent Peruvian businessman, at a Lima casino. The two were seen entering Van der Sloot’s room at Hotel TAC around 5 a.m. on May 30. Approximately four hours later, surveillance video captured Van der Sloot leaving the room alone and carrying his bags. After Flores’ family reported her missing, she was found dead in the hotel room on June 2, beaten and with a broken neck. Her money and credit cards were missing.
After Peruvian officials reviewed the hotel surveillance video, Van der Sloot emerged as the prime suspect in the murder investigation. Police believed he had fled in Flores’ car and later abandoned it in another part of Lima, before traveling south to Chile. On June 3, Van der Sloot was arrested in Chile, and deported to Peru soon afterward. On June 7, the Dutchman admitted to Peruvian authorities he had killed Flores during an argument after she used his computer without permission (authorities suggested she might have discovered he was linked to the Holloway case). Van der Sloot stated he beat and strangled Flores then suffocated her with his shirt. The Dutchman later retracted this confession, saying he was frightened and confused when he made it.
On the day Van der Sloot was arrested in South America, U.S. authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with a plot to extort $250,000 from Holloway’s family in exchange for revealing the location of her remains. Holloway, an 18-year-old from Mountain Brook, Alabama, was last seen leaving an Aruban bar and restaurant with Van der Sloot and two of his friends in the early hours of May 30, 2005. Her disappearance generated widespread media coverage in the United States. Despite an extensive search, Holloway’s body was never found. Van der Sloot was arrested twice in Aruba in conjunction with her disappearance but never charged.
On January 11, 2012, Van der Sloot, who has been behind bars in Peru since his June 2010 arrest, pleaded guilty in a Lima courtroom to Flores’ murder. He also confessed to robbing her. His lawyer contended the Dutchman killed Flores due to “extreme psychological trauma” after being accused in Holloway’s disappearance. On January 13, two days after his guilty plea, a three-judge panel sentenced Van der Sloot to 28 years in prison and ordered him to pay $75,000 in reparation to Flores’ family.
One day before Van der Sloot was sentenced in Peru, a judge in Birmingham, Alabama, signed an order declaring Natalee Holloway legally dead (although her case remains unsolved). The judge made the ruling at the request of Holloway’s father, so that he could settle his daughter’s estate.