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Convicted killer Joran van der Sloot has confessed to the slaying of Natalee Holloway, according to a federal judge in Alabama who accepted his guilty plea in an extortion case targeting her family Wednesday.
According to a transcript of his confession, van der Sloot shared a grisly account of the teen’s final moments. He admitted that he crushed her head with a cinderblock and dragged her to the ocean when she refused his sexual advances on an Aruba beach.
As he recounted the incident in an Oct. 3 interview, he revealed he grew angry with her resistance, grabbed the block and said, “I smash her head in with it completely.”
“Her face basically, you know, collapses in,” he added. “Even though it’s dark, I can see her face is collapsed in.”
After that, he said he dragged her in until he was about knees deep and pushed her off into the sea. Then, he said, he walked home.
Van der Sloot apologized to Holloway’s family in court and agreed to assist law enforcement and her relatives about her disappearance and submit to a polygraph test.
Holloway was 18 years old when she went missing during a senior trip to Aruba in May 2005 with high school classmates from Mountain Brook, a suburb of Birmingham, and was last seen exiting a bar with van der Sloot, who told the court “I am no longer the person that I was.”
“You have brutally murdered, in separate incidents, years apart, two young women who refused your sexual advances,” Judge Anna Manasco told van der Sloot in court, referencing an unrelated murder of another woman.
Manasco called the extortion and fraud charges “heinous” because the killer knew the information he was selling was a lie to make profit. However, as part of the deal, she said federal prosecutors have agreed not to use his confession against him for any other purposes.
“After 18 years, Natalee’s case has been solved,” Holloway’s mother told reporters outside the courthouse immediately after the hearing. “Joran van der Sloot is the killer.”
In a powerful victim impact statement minutes earlier, Holloway’s mother tore into van der Sloot saying he taunted her family and caused indescribable pain before turning to him and saying, “you look like hell.”
You are a killer and I want you to remember that every time that jail door slams.
— Beth Holloway
Van der Sloot, a 36-year-old Dutch national, was charged with extortion and wire fraud in the U.S. after he allegedly attempted to sell the mother information about her daughter’s body in 2010.
Beth Holloway, who teared up at times, said she lost her job, teaching license and tenure while searching for answers about her daughter’s disappearance.
“I implore this court to give you the maximum sentence possible and make financial restitution,” she said.
I incurred killer fees. I paid my daughter’s killer.
— Beth Holloway
Van der Sloot was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with credit for time already served in U.S. custody after his arrival in June. The court will allow his sentence to run concurrently with the ones he faces in Peru. His new expected release date is June 9, 2043.
Joran van der Sloot’s Sentencing Details:
- Will serve U.S. sentence in Peruvian custody
- Will serve remainder of sentence in U.S. if he is released from Peruvian custody earlier than anticipated
- Ordered to pay $25,100 in restitution immediately
- Ordered to pay $200 special assessment
- Must not re-enter U.S. without permission of Homeland Security
- May be forever refused admission to enter U.S.
- Waived his right to appeal both his conviction and sentence
Judge Manasco ordered the U.S. Marshals to remove van der Sloot from American soil as soon as possible.
Van der Sloot entered the courtroom about 10 minutes before the 9:30 a.m. CT start time for the hearing wearing an orange jumpsuit with a white undershirt. He had his usual short buzz cut.
As the hearing began as scheduled, the judge confirmed with van der Sloot that he intended to change his plea to “guilty” and swore him in under oath. By 9:40, a plea agreement had been filed with the court.
A separate court declared Holloway legally dead in 2012, and nearly two decades later, her remains have not been found. She would have turned 37 this coming Saturday.
Van der Sloot is expected to begin his U.S. punishment after returning to Peru, where he was convicted of the unrelated murder of another woman. He is scheduled to be released from prison there in 2038.
“It’s a great day for justice,” Beth Holloway’s lawyer, John Q. Kelly, said as he arrived at the courthouse.
According to federal prosecutors, van der Sloot tried to extort the family for $250,000 and collected $25,000 up front for purported information about the whereabouts of her remains. The rest was to be paid once Holloway’s body was positively identified.
However, van der Sloot lied to Beth Holloway about where her daughter’s remains were located, according to U.S. prosecutors. The alleged extortion scheme took place between March 29, 2010, and May 17, 2010. He pleaded not guilty to the charges after a June hearing when he was temporarily transferred from Peru to the United States.
After allegedly attempting to carry out the extortion plot, van der Sloot traveled to Peru where he met 21-year-old Stephany Flores at a Lima casino owned by her father.
Van der Sloot ultimately admitted to killing Flores on May 30, 2010 – five years to the day after Holloway was last seen alive.
The extortion charges were filed by federal prosecutors in 2010, but Peruvian officials didn’t agree to release van der Sloot into American custody until May this year. He initially pleaded not guilty to the extortion charges after arriving to Birmingham, Alabama, in June.
“Today’s sentence holds Joran van der Sloot accountable for the pain he has caused the family and friends of Natalee Holloway,” FBI Birmingham Special Agent in Charge Carlton Peeples said after the hearing. “After more than a decade of uncertainty, hopefully this will bring them and this community some closure. During this lengthy investigation, the FBI remained committed in aggressively pursuing and holding this individual accountable for the crimes he committed against US persons. I would like to thank our local, state, federal, and foreign partners who assisted in this investigation and a special thanks to all the FBI personnel, past and present, who worked tirelessly in bringing this individual to justice.”
Van der Sloot was originally handed 28 years in a Peruvian prison for killing Flores, but he had more time added because of a prison drug smuggling scandal.
Van der Sloot has offered shifting explanations for Holloway’s final hours over the years, including that he shoved her into a rock, causing a head injury. He has also claimed that his father, a prominent judge who died in 2010, helped hide the body.