Joran van der Sloot told police investigators that he ate breakfast and sipped coffee as he contemplated what to do with the body of Stephany Flores moments after he killed her. He considered using suitcases, but that would mean dismembering Flores’ body. He didn’t have any friends to call to help and he didn’t want to raise the alarm with the hotel staff. So he popped a few amphetamines to stay awake, and then packed up the bare essentials and headed for Chile. On his way out, he told the receptionist at the front desk not to wake “my girl,” who he said was sleeping off a long night playing poker.
Under Peruvian law, Van der Sloot’s confession is similar to a plea bargain, which will reduce his prison sentence if he is convicted of Flores’ murder.
Gory details of Flores’ senseless murder are being drip fed to the Peruvian press as police prepare to file formal murder charges against the 22-year-old Dutch native. Normally in Peru, suspects of violent crimes who confess, like Van der Sloot did earlier this week, are required to visit the crime scene and “recreate” the crime in an effort to garner even more evidence. But due to media attention and the thoroughness of Van der Sloot’s confession, the crime scene visit has been waived.
A Van der Sloot conviction may seem like a slam-dunk, but there are still potential caveats. The Dutch consulate in Lima says Van der Sloot’s confession was coerced, and his mother Anita, who spoke with him briefly by telephone, told a Dutch radio station that his interrogation has been “barbaric.” In 2009, Peru was singled out by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor for human rights abuses involving “abuse of detainees and inmates by police and prison security forces” and “harsh prison conditions.”
A police source told The Daily Beast that Van der Sloot will likely be charged with first-degree murder by this weekend. Once charged, Van der Sloot will be transferred to Lima’s notorious Miguel Castro Castro high security prison, where he will await trial under extreme conditions.
There, he will have limited visitation privileges, and his lawyers will have to pay the guards for the right to consult with their client.
A police source in Lima told The Daily Beast that Peruvian prisons are controlled by criminal mafias. There are very few foreign inmates but they still have to pay protection money to the gangs for their own security. Sources in the National Penitentiary Institute say Van der Sloot will be sent to the Castro Castro maximum security prison, in the San Juan de Lurigancho district of Lima. Most of the foreigners there are serving time for drug-trafficking. There's just one other murderer in his section of the prison: a Colombian hitman called Hugo Trujillo Ospina who was convicted in the 2006 murder of a wealthy businesswoman, Myriam Fefer, on the orders of her daughter and lesbian lover.
• Barbie Latza Nadeau: Inside Van der Sloot's Confession• Barbie Latza Nadeau: Van der Sloot’s Downward Spiral"If he's going to survive he will need money," said the police source who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The state provides around $1.50 a day per prisoner, he will need to buy everything from toothpaste from a decent space in which to sleep. On top of that, the mafias will be pressing him for protection money, all foreign prisoners have to pay just to stay alive." The source added: "The prisons are run by the prisoners, everything is available there: drugs, alcohol, sex.”
Van der Sloot could wait years in prison for his trial to begin. The time he serves in Castro Castro waiting will be hard indeed, but as bad as it sounds, Peruvians say Van der Sloot is actually considered lucky to have escaped being sent to the more dangerous but less secure San Juan de Lurigancho prison in the same Lima district. No doubt, he will wish he were back in the Aruban prison where he once spent three months in connection with the disappearance and presumed murder of American teen Natalee Holloway.
Under Peruvian law, Van der Sloot’s confession is similar to a plea bargain, which will reduce his prison sentence if he is convicted of Flores’ murder. Van der Sloot also confessed to being high on marijuana when he killed Flores, which may have been a strategic attempt at a further reduction in his sentence since crimes committed under the influence of drugs are often treated with leniency. Peru does not try criminal cases by jury like in the United States.
Instead a judge will apply the rule of law based on the evidence presented including his prior criminal record. The accusations against him in Aruba will most certainly be used against him in Peru.
Van der Sloot’s actions so far imply that he has good legal advice, but it probably won’t be enough. Authorities in Aruba say they are ready to redouble efforts in the Holloway investigation and will seek to extradite Van der Sloot if they finally have enough evidence to tie him to her murder. The FBI in Birmingham, Alabama has also filed extortion and wire fraud charges against the Dutch national in connection with a sting operation that began in April. Van der Sloot was paid $25,000 in cash and wire transfers by Holloway’s mother in exchange for information about her daughter’s whereabouts and the circumstances of her murder. The FBI was waiting for Van der Sloot to provide details before making an arrest but he slipped away to Peru before keeping his end of the deal.
In a poignant coincidence, Holloway’s mother inaugurated the Natalee Holloway Resource Center inside the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C. earlier this week. A call center has been established in Natalee’s name to provide families with valuable information if their loved ones disappear abroad. "When Natalee went missing, we desperately needed contact information, law enforcement information, government resources, organization of foot soldiers, setting up command centers and media engagement," Holloway said at the center’s opening. "I feel confident it will serve as a point of light for all missing."
Barbie Latza Nadeau, author of the Beast Book Angel Face, about Amanda Knox, has reported from Italy for Newsweek since 1997. She also writes for CNN Traveller, Budget Travel Magazine and Frommer's.
Dan Collyns is a freelance multi-media journalist reporting for the BBC from Peru since 2006. He's also written for The Guardian, The Independent, and Agence France Presse, and reported for PRI, CBC, CBS and NPR radio.