After almost two decades, the mystery of what happened to Alabama teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba has been solved: Joran van der Sloot confessed to her parents that he beat her to death and then went home and watched porn.
Van der Sloot, a 36-year-old Dutch citizen, has long been the prime suspect in the 18-year-old 2005 disappearance. In federal court on Wednesday, it was revealed that he finally admitted to being her killer.
The revelation came as Van der Sloot pleaded guilty to trying to extort money from Holloway’s mother in exchange for information about her daughter’s death and the location of her remains. He was sentenced to 240 months in prison for the 2010 scheme.
During the hearing, prosecutors announced that van der Sloot confessed during an interview with the feds and to Holloway’s parents. He showed his first scintilla of remorse in 18 years in court, claiming he was born-again.
“I would like to take this chance to apologize to the Holloway family, to apologize to my own family, to say I hope the statement I provided brings some kind of closure to everyone involved,” van der Sloot said in court, according to AL.com. He added that he has “opened his heart” to Jesus Christ. “I am no longer that person I was back then.”
Beth Holloway, the teenager’s mother, confirmed to the court that van der Sloot confessed and told him “you terminated her dreams, her potential, her possibilities, when you bludgeoned her to death in 2005.” Court documents show that van der Sloot bashed her head in with a cinderblock after she refused his sexual advances on the beach. Van der Sloot said he then went home and watched pornography after snuffing out her child’s life, Beth Holloway added.
“You didn’t get what you wanted from Natalee, your sexual satisfaction, so you brutally killed her,” Beth Holloway said.
“I paid my daughter’s killer money. That’s shocking. I don’t think anyone can really wrap their mind around what that means,” she added, referring to the extortion charges.
Before sentencing van der Sloot, Judge Anna Manasco revealed that the Holloway family “will not find” the teenager’s remains, but did not provide further details. After the hearing, Beth Holloway told reporters outside of court that van der Sloot revealed “after killing her on the beach in Aruba, he put her into the water—and that was the last that he ever saw her.” She added that she is confident that van der Sloot carried out the murder alone, but declined to provide more details about his confession.
“You have brutally murdered two women who refused your sexual advances,” the judge said, calling his crimes “heinous.”
His guilty plea and confession are the most dramatic turn in a true-crime saga that has been in the headlines since Holloway vanished on a high school graduation trip. She was last seen leaving a club in Aruba with van der Sloot, then 19, and twin brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe.
In a transcript of van der Sloot’s confession, he describes how Holloway asked to go back to the hotel that night—but he pushed her to take a walk with him. Alone with Holloway, van der Sloot said they started kissing on the beach before she told him she wanted to stop.
“I insist. I keep feeling her up either way,” van der Sloot said. At that point, Holloway kneed him in the crotch.
In response, van der Sloot said he kicked her “extremely hard” in the face. Then, he used a cinderblock on the beach to “smash her head in with it completely.” Scared, he said, he picked up Holloway’s body and walked into the ocean with her until he was knee-deep. He pushed her into the water and then walked home, he said.
When Holloway did not show up for her flight home, a chaperone called her mother, who began a quest for the truth of what happened to her daughter that has lasted nearly two decades.
Van der Sloot and the Kalpoes were arrested within days—and the Dutchman changed his version of events several times, first saying that the trio took Holloway to the beach and dropped her off at the hotel, later claiming one of the twins raped her at the beach. After three months in custody, the trio was released for lack of evidence and van der Sloot returned to the Netherlands.
Two years later, Aruban prosecutors charged the trio with involvement in the involuntary manslaughter of Holloway, but once again they were freed due to a lack of direct evidence that Holloway died from a violent crime and that they were responsible.
In March 2010, van der Sloot reached out to Beth Holloway’s attorney, claiming to have information about the whereabouts of her child’s remains and promised to reveal where the body was buried in exchange for $250,000. The lawyer traveled to Aruba to let van der Sloot drive him to a house where he claimed the remains would be found in the concrete foundation. Van der Sloot was then given $10,000 cash and wired another $15,000 from Beth’s account later.
He did not know at the time that he was being recorded when he met with the Holloway family lawyer as part of a sting operation. That would lead to his indictment in Alabama on charges of extortion with wire fraud.
But it would be years before he could be extradited. In May 2010, van der Sloot killed a young woman named Stephany Flores in Peru and was arrested after he fled to Chile. He was jailed in Peru for that crime until an extradition agreement brought it back to the U.S. this summer. He will likely return to Peru to finish his sentence for murder before serving time in the U.S. for extortion.
“Today, I can tell you with certainty that after 18 years, Natalee’s case is solved,” Beth Holloway said outside of court. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s over.”