Natalee Holloway family hopeful after Joran van der Sloot's extradition

Thursday, June 15, 2023
Natalee Holloway suspect in court, charged with extortion
The chief suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway has pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to extort the missing teen's mother.

Joran van der Sloot, the main suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of American teenager Natalee Holloway, was extradited last week from Peru to Alabama and pleaded not guilty to federal extortion and wire fraud charges.

Holloway, then 18, went missing on a high school graduation trip to Aruba in 2005. She was last seen with a group of young men, including van der Sloot, then 17. Van der Sloot was detained as a suspect in Holloway's disappearance and later released. He has never been charged with Holloway's disappearance who was declared legally dead in January 2012.

Van der Sloot is accused of extorting the Holloway family in 2010 in exchange for revealing the location of the teen's body for $250,000, according to federal prosecutors. During a recorded sting operation, Beth Holloway's attorney, John Q. Kelly, met with van der Sloot at an Aruba hotel, giving him $10,000 in cash as Beth Holloway wired $15,000 to van der Sloot's bank account, prosecutors said.

Van der Sloot claimed he had picked Natalee Holloway up, but she demanded to be put down, so he threw her to the ground. Van der Sloot said her head hit a rock and he claimed she died instantly from the impact, according to prosecutors. Van der Sloot then took Kelly to a house and claimed that his father, who had since died, buried Natalee Holloway in the building's foundation, prosecutors said.

Kelly later emailed van der Sloot, saying the information he had provided was "worthless," according to prosecutors. Within days, van der Sloot left Aruba for Peru.

Before he was extradited last week, van der Sloot had been serving a 28-year sentence for the 2010 murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores in an unrelated case.

George Seymore, the Holloway family spokesperson, spoke to "GMA3" hosts Phil Lipof and Eva Pilgrim about what led up to the extradition and what the Holloway family is hoping for.

GMA 3: So this story has captured the public's attention for many years now. Can you just give us a sense of what was going on behind the scenes to make this extradition take place?

SEYMORE: Well, behind the scenes, we received a contact actually from Greta Van Susteren back in April, and my company was representing the government of Peru. So we worked with the government of Peru, the embassy and the leadership there in Peru to move this forward. And we're very excited that we're all here to face justice for Natalee, finally, after 18 long years.

GMA 3: Currently, van der Sloot is facing charges, two charges, extortion and fraud, but not murder. I'm wondering, how do these charges relate to Natalee's disappearance?

SEMOYRE: Well, they're unrelated to her disappearance, but these were the charges that were available to us, and we're hoping that the process would lead to more information in terms of Natalee's whereabouts, remains.

GMA 3: What is the Holloway family hoping for at this point?

SEYMORE: At this time, we're hoping for more answers. We're hoping that this process reveals some information. We hope that there will be some discovery that presents some more evidence to the ultimate disappearance of Natalee. And in terms of justice, the maximum sentence would be 40 years if convicted. And that would be, again, some resemblance for justice for the Holloway family.

GMA 3: So we know that van der sloot has pleaded not guilty to extortion and fraud charges, but he was arrested twice right after Natalee's disappearance, released both times because of a lack of evidence. Is there any new evidence that you know of right now?

SEYMORE: Again, the able attorneys at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Birmingham will conduct a thorough investigation. They're in that process now of discovery, and we hope that there will be more information that comes forward at this time. We are not aware of any additional information or evidence at this time, but that's what the process will allow us.

GMA 3: George, just quickly before we go, you are a spokesperson for the family. This has been going on for so long and there have been ups and downs in the cases. How is Natalee's family doing?

SEYMORE: The family is doing well. Very resilient, very strong. They haven't given up hope. It's been 18 years to the day. Natalee would be 36 years old now. So Beth and Dave, Natalee's father and mother, they had Natalee for 18 years, and it's been 18 years without her. They're happy now. We were all together in the courtroom on Friday of last week for the arraignment. They're happy that the process is underway, and that there will be some resemblance of justice in this case.

GMA 3: George Seymore, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us and our best to the Holloway family.

SEYMORE: Thank you for having me.