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Friends Ditch Van der Sloot

As he awaits trial in a notorious Peruvian prison, supporters abandon the suspected murderer. Barbie Latza Nadeau reports on the lonely life of a killer.

06.17.10 7:44 PM ET

Joran van der Sloot is alone—that is, except for the hit man who shares his jail cell in Peru’s notorious Miguel Castro Castro Prison.

The 22-year-old Dutch native, who was formally charged with the murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores in Peru’s capital Lima last week, shares his prison days with Hugo Trugillo Ospina, convicted of killing a Peruvian businesswoman on orders from her daughter and her lesbian lover.

The two cellmates are apparently communicating in Spanish, playing cards and lifting weights together in a makeshift gym in the common area. And Ospina has a television in his cell that he has reportedly adjusted to allow his new Dutch friend a glimpse.

The few people who have spoken out publicly to support Van der Sloot since he was charged with murder seem to be either blood relatives or attention-seekers.

Most others, however, have turned their backs on Van der Sloot, including his Peruvian lawyer, Maximo Altez, who walked off the case amid death threats and lack of compensation last week. Van der Sloot’s mother has yet to make the journey to Peru, and Joe Tacopina, the lawyer who represented him in Aruba when he faced accusations in the disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway, told The Daily Beast he won’t touch the Peruvian case. “I don’t want to spend a year in Peru.”

Read our full coverage on Joran van der Sloot

Barbie Latza Nadeau: Van der Sloot’s Lawyer Trouble
Even Van der Sloot’s onetime girlfriend, Melody Granadillo, who stood by him when he was accused in the disappearance of Holloway in 2005, is distancing herself from her former boyfriend now that he has admitted killing Flores.

In an interview set to air today, the 23-year-old Aruban told ABC’s 20/20 that Van der Sloot was her first love, that he was “amazing” and “romantic” and that her pet names for him were “Chi Chi” and “Mr. Wiggles.” But, she said, he was also a habitual liar. "He would lie for no apparent reason at all. And if you caught him at it... he would double-down and be even more serious about the story."

The few people who have spoken out in support of Van der Sloot since he was charged with murder are either relatives or seeming attention-seekers.

“He seemed like he’d be a cool guy to hang out with,” John Ludwick, an American who met Van der Sloot in Aruba earlier this year, told CNN’s Nancy Grace. Ludwick says the two became friends and saw each other daily in Aruba during the final months before Van der Sloot left for Peru. “He’s a good person and a good friend. And he’s not the serial killer, sociopath, psychopath, you guys—the media—make him out to be.”

But “Van der Sloot—the liar” is the more common description of the young man who seems to have spent his entire life taking what he felt was rightfully his. In the Netherlands, he attended private schools and was a soccer star—even trying out for a scholarship to play college soccer in Tampa, Florida. He was smart, too—an honors student whose good grades came easily. He was adept at languages; he studied Mandarin and Russian, and spoke English, Dutch, and the Aruban language of Papiamento fluently.

However, even then, Van der Sloot wasn’t popular. His hot temper and arrogance won him few friends. His father Paulus was a prominent Dutch lawyer who represented citizen cases against the Dutch government, before signing up to be an apprentice judge in Aruba when Joran was just 16. Joran and his two brothers wanted desperately to return to the Netherlands, but his father insisted that being a judge in Aruba was his big break.

Joran’s mother Anita was a socialite who gave private art lessons to students in the Netherlands and later became an art teacher at an exclusive private school in Aruba, where she taught until Joran got into trouble.

When Paulus died of cardiac arrest in February this year, Anita reportedly went into a depression from which she hasn’t emerged. So far, she has refused to speak to the press about the Peruvian allegations, except to express “shock” that her son was again “targeted” for something as ludicrous as “another murder.”

Van der Sloot’s erstwhile friends are not as unconditional as his mother in their support. In the CNN interview, Ludwick said that Van der Sloot's troubles included a gambling addiction and problems with money. He also said that Van der Sloot asked him, via a birthday message on Facebook, to wire him cash. Ludwick did not respond to the request for money, which came on May 29, the day before Flores was murdered.

On Monday, Van der Sloot is scheduled to appear before Judge Carlos Morales, who will interrogate him inside Miguel Castro Castro Prison. The family of Stephany Flores will also be present, and has indicated that they want Van der Sloot to face a public trial in which he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Van der Sloot’s troubles extend beyond Peru. Aruban authorities have finally been granted permission by the Peruvians to interview Van der Sloot again regarding the Holloway case, once their investigation is over, likely in late August.

Should he be convicted in Peru, however, he will have to serve his entire sentence there before he can go on trial in Aruba.

In Peru, a court-appointed lawyer, who will represent him now that his private attorney has bailed, is likely to seek a plea bargain arrangement that includes serving any sentence in protective custody.

Van der Sloot is on suicide watch, and already, there are reports that the young Dutchman has a price on his head inside the dangerous prison.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, author of the Beast Book Angel Face, about Amanda Knox, has reported from Italy for Newsweek Magazine since 1997. She also writes for CNN Traveller, Budget Travel Magazine and Frommer's.