BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — After years of questions, Joran van der Sloot finally gave some answers.
The main suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway was required 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.
Van der Sloot, the 36-year-old Dutch man who is not charged in Holloway’s death, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and extortion. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison on each charge, sentences that would run concurrent with one another.
As part of his plea, van der Sloot confessed to murdering Holloway in Aruba in 2005 and disposing of her body. He said in his confession that he killed her after she refused his advances, then pushed her body into the sea.
In addition, van der Sloot had to agree to assist law enforcement in its investigation into the whereabouts of Holloway’s body. He also took a polygraph test that was handled by prosecutors.
Van der Sloot will be given credit for time served in Peru, where he is serving a sentence for murder charges in the death of Stephany Flores in 2010. He is also serving a sentence for drug trafficking.
“I would like to take this chance to apologize to the Holloway family and to the rest of my own family,” van der Sloot said, his large frame hunched down to speak into the microphone.
Van der Sloot said he hoped his statement would provide some peace for the Holloway family.
“I am not that person anymore,” he said, adding that he is now a Christian.
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.
Her mother, Beth Holloway, who became a tireless champion for both her daughter and for missing children around the world, briefly spoke in court, where she talked about the turmoil her daughter’s disappearance had caused her family over the last 18 years.
“Your lies, your manipulation, your taunting have caused us pain and the grief extends deep into my soul,” Beth Holloway said. “Now in the process, you have finally admitted that you have in fact murdered her.”
Van der Sloot has been in Alabama since June in a case involving him allegedly telling the Holloway family he knew where her body was. In March 2010, van der Sloot reached out to John Q. Kelly, former attorney for the Holloways, claiming to have information on Natalee Holloway’s whereabouts. However, there was a catch: He would only give the information for $250,000.
“In subsequent emails, Joran agreed to an initial payment of $25,000 to show Kelly where Natalee’s body had been buried,” Lisa Pulitzer and Cole Thompson wrote in their book “Portrait of a Monster: Joran van der Sloot, a Murder in Peru, and the Natalee Holloway Mystery.” “Upon recovery and confirmation of the remains, Joran would receive the remaining $225,000.”
After mother Beth Holloway wired the first installment, van der Sloot took Kelly to a spot in Aruba where he claimed Natalee Holloway was buried. However, an investigation turned up nothing and van der Sloot had fled the country to Peru by the time police sought to question him.
In an interview he gave to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf in 2010, van der Sloot admitted to lying about Holloway’s whereabouts in order to get money from her family.
“I wanted to get back at Natalee’s family,” van der Sloot said. “Her parents have been making my life tough for five years. When they offered to pay for the girl’s location, I thought: ‘Why not?’”
In her statement, Beth Holloway said her daughter’s death and disappearance had caused her and her family unfathomable pain.
“You changed the course of our lives and you turned them upside down,” she said. “You are a killer, and I want you to remember that every time you heard the prison door slam. You didn’t get what you wanted … so you brutally killed her.”
For years, he has been considered the prime suspect in her death and many questions have circled around what he knows. However, he has never been charged with her death and Natalee Holloway’s case remained unsolved.
Nonetheless, Beth Holloway said she hoped that van der Sloot would receive the highest sentence possible on the wire fraud and extortion cases.
“You should never profit from this ever again,” she said.
As part of his sentence, van der Sloot will not serve prison time in the United States if he serves the entirety of his sentence in Peru. However, if he were to be paroled, he would be required to serve the remainder of his sentence in the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.