Today is the eighth year anniversary of the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. I have been following her story in detail since day one and it continues to break my heart that Natalee's family and supporters (like me, and so many others) are yet to find answers or an end to this devastating tragedy. I would like to take this day to honor the memory of beautiful Natalee and spread awareness of the injustice that has been served to her and her family at the hands of (not a man, but an animal): Joran van der Sloot.
Miss Natalee's Story
For those of you who aren't familiar with Natalee's story, she was a beautiful and brilliant eighteen year old young woman when she disappeared on a high school graduation trip to Aruba. After a few days of vacation fun on the island, Natalee was last seen by friends getting into a car with three local young men outside of this Carlos'n Charlie's restaurant/bar in the early morning hours of May 30, 2005. Those three men were later identified as brothers Deepack and Satish Kalpoe and (the case's permanent main suspect) Juran himself. Passport and bags still in her room and with Natalee nowhere to be found, her family and Aruban authorities were notified when she missed the scheduled group flight back to the United States later that morning. Natalee's parents immediately flew to Aruba and her search and investigation began. (Natalee's mother, Beth Holloway, is credited for having a huge impact on the case).
During initial questioning, Juran claimed he had dropped Natalee off at the entrance to her hotel, but security camera footage of the entrance and lobby quickly proved this to be the first of many false stories he would tell about what happened that morning. Soon after, he admitted to taking her to the beach, which is quite possibly the last detail we know (in absolute certainty) about Natalee's final hours, even after all these years.
Tips, theories, and even Natalee "sightings" poured in from all over the island in the days, weeks, and months following, which were ultimately fruitless for investigators and heartbreaking for her family.
Aruban authorities were of very little assistance to Natalee's family and friends during the first few days of her disappearance, claiming that tourists would often turn up after days of partying or simply exploring the island. Because the first few hours and days in missing persons cases are absolutely crucial to any investigation (and for the potential safe return of the person in question), these accusations were a huge mistake. If Aruban authorities had taken this case seriously from the very first report of a missing female tourist who was still in high school, there is a very good chance that Natalee's fate would not be a mystery to this day.
(Sidenote: Juran's father, Paul van der Sloot (now deceased), was a very powerful man in Aruba at the time Natalee vanished; a great deal of evidence supports the idea that Paul helped his son hide her disappearance and murder. This would explain why Juran's tracks and case evidence were completely covered from very early on in the investigation (at a time when witnesses had fresh descriptions and the island was being searched inch by inch). Many people have theorized that Juran's father not only pulled strings as far as the investigation was concerned, but that he actually may have helped Juran physically dispose of Natalee's body.)
Beth Holloway: Mother (& Hero)
Beth did not waste a single second trying to protect Natalee from what was her immediate worst fear upon hearing the news that her daughter was missing in another country. She flew to Aruba, demanded answers, and was persistent with the people who might be able to provide them.
Beth is a true hero. Not only has she consistently continued to seek answers in her daughter's case, but she has dedicated herself to helping other victims and families involved in missing persons/murder cases. She is a woman who has turned her own trauma into helping others and she deserves to be praised for her strength, knowledge, and encouragement.
Here are some of the programs Beth is involved with:
Natalee Holloway Resource Center
Vanished with Beth Holloway
May 2010 (Extortion)
After causing Beth years of emotional torture and heartache, Juran committed the ultimate act of torment when he promised to provide her with the exact whereabouts of her daughter's remains in exchange for $250,000. Guided by a team of legal authorities, Beth accepted his extortion deal and sent Juran a large sum of money. (The deal and promised expectations, of course, ultimately turned out to be as false as Juran's first alibis.)
May 30, 2010 (The Murder of Stephany Flores)
Exactly five years to the day of Natalee's disappearance, the monster in Juran burst forth again. Much like Natalee, 21 year-old Stephany Tatiana Flores Ramirez would be last seen alive with Juran. Stephany came across some kind of e-mail (or possibly a website/comment) on his computer regarding his involvement in Natalee's case and questioned him about it. Being the dangerous man he is, Juran lost his temper and strangled the breath right out of Stephany with his bare hands.
Security camera footage from this hotel distinctly shows Juran and Stephany walking into the hotel room, then Juran walking out (alone) hours later. No one else was shown walking into the room until police entered and found Stephany's lifeless corpse.
If Juran's involvement in Natalee's case could not be proven with concrete evidence up to this point, this act should be more than confirmation that he is guilty. Stephany's killing entirely proves that not only is Juran capable of murder, but that after five years, he did not feel any remorse for what he did and was able to kill again. Even more so, his anger toward Stephany for merely questioning his involvement with Natalee is what triggered the temper tantrum that led to her cold blooded murder. Why would he possibly react this way if he was innocent?
Ultimately, Juran confessed to the murder of Stephany Flores which (again) unbelievably took place on the five year anniversary of Natalee's unsolved disappearance.
January 12, 2012 (Death Declaration)
With no body, remains, or any absolute hard proof of her actual death, many Natalee supporters have remained hopeful that time would bring answers regarding her whereabouts (or, at the very least, her remains). Almost a year and a half ago, however, Natalee was pronounced dead by a judge at her father's request. Loving mother Beth fought this declaration, to no avail.
Juran currently sits in Peruvian jail. When he is released, he will be returned to the United States to face extortion charges against Natalee's mother.
Please take this day to offer up your thoughts and prayers to the families of Natalee Holloway, Stephany Flores, and even Juran van der Sloot. I hope and pray that Natalee's family will one day get the justice and answers they deserve. Please consider the following references for more information on these case(s):
Loving Natalee by Beth Holloway
Aruba by Dave Holloway
Justice For Natalee Holloway
Natalee -and Stephany- you are never forgotten.