In a session that lasted more than two hours, Joran van der Sloot was sentenced to 28 years of imprisonment in the Castro Castro Prison in Lima, Peru. The possibility of a reduction was dismissed by the judge.
Van der Sloot took a deep breath and stood as a clerk summarized the occurrences of May 30, 2010. He shook his head as the missive, which referred to the presumed murder of American teenager Natalee Holloway, was read—crimes committed with “ferocity, great cruelty, and treachery,” according to the court documents.
The self-confessed killer of Peruvian college student Stephany Flores was convicted of aggravated homicide and petty theft. The prosecution had requested a 30-year sentence, which was reduced to 28 years for having subjected himself to what is called an “anticipated conclusion,” whereby he declared himself guilty and accepted all charges put forth by the Public Ministry of Peru. He was also charged just over $74,000 in reparations. Van der Sloot’s sentence will conclude on June 10, 2038, after which he will be expelled from the country.
Van der Sloot acted bored and disconnected during his two hearings, an attitude many interpreted as disrespectful to the court. During his plea, he said he “felt badly” and “regretted” what had happened, but his demeanor before and during the hearings told another story.
Van der Sloot’s attorney, Jose Jimenez, attempted to put forth claims that his client suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder when he attacked Flores, 21. With this, he expected to score points with the panel of female judges and decrease the number of years his client would be sentenced to.
“The defendant does not present psychosis, nor any other psychiatric conditions that would limit him in any way; he is conscious and responsible for his actions,” read the clerk.
Van der Sloot is also the prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, the young American woman who had traveled to Aruba on a high school graduation trip in May of 2005. Yesterday, a U.S. judge declared Holloway legally dead.
On the 5th anniversary of Holloway’s disappearance, Van der Sloot was in Lima, Peru, for a poker tournament, where he found himself on a losing streak. He lured Flores to his hotel room for a game of online poker, and when she came across a message referring to the Holloway case, according to the formal accusation, van der Sloot reacted with rage and beat her to death.
Van der Sloot then fled, after stealing Flores’s credit cards and about $300 in cash. He took flight in his victim’s truck, which he left abandoned on a city street; taxis were contracted to help him make his way south, to Chile. Two days after he had left the scene of the crime, the hotel clerk noticed a debt of two nights in the system, and knocked on van der Sloot’s door. When no one answered, she entered the room and found Flores’s decaying body.
The taxi drivers who helped the murderer flee opted out of the anticipated conclusion option. If they are found guilty, they face 5 years of imprisonment and just over $4,000.
This morning, the news broke in Peru’s local media that van der Sloot had access to a cellular phone and that he was in constant communication with his attorney and his benefactor: Dr. Mary Hamer, a radiologist from Florida. Hamer had made public her request to Peruvian president Ollanta Humala to release van der Sloot to her care, offering what she calls a “10-year Ghandi program” to rehabilitate him from his gambling and drug addictions.
Hamer traveled to Lima in December and was able to visit the prison on one occasion, but was turned away on the following days. She pays for van der Sloot’s legal fees and sends him money regularly, although today she sent an email to a handful of journalists in which she demanded that Jimenez reimburse the money she had put forward for what she calls “bail”—except van der Sloot was never given a bail option. She may be referring to the civil reparation fine, which matches the amount she wired. In all exchanges, van der Sloot used an email address in the name of Sidney Ewing. Hamer was unavailable for comment.
Today’s local news reported that van der Sloot enjoys “special privileges” behind bars, specifically a 42-inch television, a Wii or Nintendo game system, and a cellphone with Internet connection.
After the conviction, the victim’s father, Ricardo Flores, and older brother, Enrique, held a press conference. “We’re about to conclude an investigation, and we hope we’ll be able to release the information on Monday regarding the excess privileges this man has had from the first day of his seclusion,” said Mr. Ricardo Flores. Flores’s attorney took the microphone and demanded: “How can it be that a person that is in prison is more comfortable than if he were free? We will hold a press conference to present all the irregularities in this man’s imprisonment on Monday.”
“Mr. Flores wants peace for his family. The damage is done and it is beyond repair,” he continued.
Despite the long sentence, of which van der Sloot has already served two years, about a dozen Peruvians rallied outside the courthouse, shouting, “Let him rot! Life imprisonment!” One sign read: “JVDS if you had committed this crime in the U.S., you would have gotten the electric chair.”