MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A Dutch man suspected in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba was charged Thursday in Alabama with trying to extort $250,000 in return for disclosing the location of her body.
A criminal complaint by the U.S. attorney in federal court in Birmingham also accused Joran van der Sloot in May of promising to describe the circumstances of Holloway’s death in return for the money. According to a sworn statement, van der Sloot got a partial payment of $15,000 wired to a Netherlands bank soon after.
He has long been a suspect in Aruba in the disappearance of Holloway, an 18-year-old from Mountain Brook, Ala., who was on a graduation trip to Aruba with other seniors when she turned up missing as they flew home. Her mother still lives in Alabama.
The name of the person paying the money was not given. A call to U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance was not immediately returned. She said at a news conference that her office would not be releasing any more details.
Van der Sloot was arrested Thursday in Chile as a suspect in the death of 21-year-old Stephany Flores of Peru. Her neck was broken Sunday, five years to the day after Holloway disappeared, and her body found by a maid Tuesday in a Lima hotel room registered to van der Sloot. Police believe he met the University of Lima business student for the first time the previous night at a nearby casino.
The two-count complaint in Alabama also charged van der Sloot with wire fraud stemming from the $15,000.
A statement from Holloway’s mother, Beth Twitty, said that she “extends her deepest sympathy to the family of Stephany Flores Ramirez and prays for swift and sure justice.” She said that she was grateful for the prayers and support she’s received.
A message left for van der Sloot’s attorney, Joe Tacopina of New York City, was not immediately returned.
Aruban authorities didn’t prosecute van der Sloot in Holloway’s May 30, 2005, disappearance even after he was caught on video saying he had asked a friend to dump her body.
He told investigators he left her on a beach, drunk. That’s the last anyone saw of her. Van der Sloot was twice arrested in her disappearance – and twice released for insufficient evidence.
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