Beautiful, intelligent, young and missing: Natalee Holloway’s story captivated the world in the early summer of 2005. The parents of Natalie Holloway received the worst news any parent can. Their daughter of just 19-years-old had disappeared during a trip to Aruba, A Dutch island that's part of the Caribbean.
The 18 year old was newly graduated from high school and looking forward to attending college on an academic scholarship. But suddenly, she was missing without a trace. On the last evening of her class trip to the tropical paradise of Aruba, Natalee went off with three boys who lived on the island. No one would see her again. An extensive search by Aruba police and FBI agents dispatched to the island from the United States, there were simply no clues as to what happened to Natalee. There was no body, no witnesses, no sign of where Natalee Holloway had gone after she left her friends at a popular Aruban bar the night before she was set to head home to Alabama.
For years, Natalee’s parents and Aruban officials would search for signs of what happened to Natalee that summer night in 2005. Suspicion has long surrounded Dutch national Joran van door Sloot, a resident on the island with a reputation for pursuing young women vacationing on the island. While van door Sloot was detained by police twice, he was released due to lack of evidence and lack of a body. With no evidence, how could the world ever discover what happened to Natalee Holloway? The decade-old cold case might finally now have some answers.
Thanks to a new investigation initiated by Natalee’s father, Dave Holloway, Natalee’s family could finally find out what happened to her all those years ago. Frustrated by a series of dead-end investigations and desperately seeking closure, Dave Holloway, took matters into his own hands. His persistence seems to have paid off: With the help of a private investigator, Holloway located a man who claimed to know exactly what happened to Natalee Holloway. This new informant’s tip led Dave Holloway to crushed remains he claimed belong to Natalee. But is this informant telling the truth? Would DNA labs confirm Natalee’s parents’ biggest fears? Will Natalee Holloway’s bereaved parents finally have answers they seek — along with remains to bury — nearly 13 years after she mysteriously disappeared?
Natalee Holloway was the perfect example of an all-American girl. Blond and petite with a shining smile, she made good grades and was a talented member of her school’s jazz dance team. She had an obsession with “The Wizard of Oz” and doted on her dog, painting its nails and putting highlights in its fur. Natalee graduated from Mountain Brook High School, in the suburbs of Birmingham, Ala., on May 24, 2005. At school, Natalee was known for her tiny stature, long blond hair and bubbly personality. Her friends describe her as innocent and sweet. Natalee wasn’t a risk taker and was shy around boys she had crushes on. She was a top performer academically and had earned a full scholarship to the University of Alabama, where she planned to major in pre-medicine as she pursued her goal to become a doctor.
Celebrating her high school graduation and looking forward to joining a sorority at college in the fall, Natalee boarded a plane with 125 of her classmates to celebrate their recent graduation on the Caribbean island of Aruba. No one could predict that the island getaway would become a tragedy that would garner international attention in four short days, and that the story of Natalee Holloway would have people riveted more than a decade after her disappearance. Will the world finally know what happened to Natalee Holloway?
Natalee Holloway and her classmates vacationing without their parents for the first time. Newly 18, freshly graduated from high school and of legal drinking age in Aruba, the trip was, reportedly, a major party for the 125 students from Mountain Brook High School. The students hit the bars at night, gambled at Aruba’s casinos, slept late into the morning and relaxed on the beach during the day. Investigators documented that the teenagers, who were overseen by only seven adult chaperones, spent most of the trip drinking. There was drug use among some of the students, investigators noted. The partying teens were so wild, in fact, that they drew complaints from other vacationers at the Holiday Inn, and the hotel told the high school group that next year’s graduating class would not be welcomed to stay. According to investigators, the Alabama teens’ behavior was “reckless” on the trip, and they noted that Natalee participated in the partying, beginning each morning with a cocktail and dancing away the nights in a local bar. The seven chaperones checked in with the teenagers each morning to make sure there were no problems, but they largely left the students alone to enjoy their tropical celebration. Surely, Natalee and her classmates’ behavior was typical of teens just graduated high school and celebrating as they prepared for college. But in this case, the reckless behavior might have been the impetus for Natalee’s disappearance. What could lead a top student and future doctor to suddenly go missing?
Natalee and her friends set out to make their fourth and final night in Aruba an evening to remember. On May 30, 2005, the teens went to a concert on Surfside Beach: Lauryn Hill and Boyz II Men. After the concert, Natalee and her friends headed to Carols ‘N Charlie’s, a popular Aruba bar where the teens danced and drank. Around midnight, three teenage boys, who lived on the island, made their way into the bar. Natalee would recognize one of the boys from a conversation at one of the island’s casinos days earlier. Natalee began talking with the boy she recognized. As she and her friends partied away their last night in Aruba, Natalee had fun drinking and dancing with the three boys. It was a night of fun and partying, the perfect end to their last trip as high school classmates. But the night would take a horrible turn when Natalee made a decision that surprised everyone. That decision would lead to a tragedy and a host of questions that have remained unanswered for more than a decade, until now.
Shortly after midnight, the party began to wind down as Natalee’s tired friends began to get tired and return to the hotel. Witnesses that night say Natalee and the three boys she met up with that night partied in the bar until around 1:30 a.m. At that point, Natalee’s friends watched as she climbed into a car with 17-year-old Joran van der Sloot, 18-year-old Satish Kalpoe and 21-year-old Deepak Kalpoe. Some of the friends who were with her at the bar said they tried to stop the visibly drunk Natalee from getting in the car with three foreign strangers. Other friends said they weren’t concerned at watching Natalee go. With her reputation for responsibility, they trusted she knew what she was doing. But one irresponsible decision would lead to tragic consequences. That night, it seems, Natalee put her trust in the wrong people. That night, getting into the car with three strangers, would be the last time any of her friends saw her. But just what happened to Natalee Holloway after she left the bar that night?
Natalee’s roommate was the first to realize something was amiss. She woke up to find that Natalee had not returned to their hotel room the night before. Assuming that Natalee had slept in another room to avoid waking her up the night before, Natalee’s roommate headed down the hotel hallway, knocking on classmates’ doors to try to locate Natalee. But as the search for Natalee spread that morning, one sign seemed to indicate that Natalee had never returned for her night out partying: Natalee’s suitcases stood ready for the airport; they hadn’t been touched since she carefully packed them the afternoon before for the return trip to Alabama. Natalee’s close friends notified the chaperones, and their small search intensified. Surely, Natalee would turn up. They had no idea that the situation would turn dire in a few short hours.
Natalee had been texting her mother regularly from her cell phone throughout the trip, but now that constant connection was broken. Calls to Natalee’s cell phone went instantly to voicemail. Natalee’s friends approached the police officers who were stationed in the hotel to tell them that their friend had not returned to the hotel after her night out. They took notes but seemed to do nothing else. Natalee’s classmates boarded the plane home without her. With the exception of her roommate, who had raised the alarm, and the few who had helped look for Natalee, her friends assumed that she had headed out to enjoy the sandy beaches one last time. It wasn’t until they landed in Alabama that they would realize the horrible truth: Natalee had not been seen since the night before. She was nowhere to be found on Aruba. A massive search was about to begin on Aruba, and Natalee Holloway was about to become a famous for all the wrong reasons. What would searchers discover about the new graduate’s whereabouts?
Natalee’s parents were about to get the call no parents hope to receive. When it was clear that Natalee wouldn’t quickly be found, Natalee’s roommate called Natalee’s mother to let her know that Natalee was missing. As any parents would in their situation, Dave Holloway and Beth Holloway Twitty, along with husband George Twitty, immediately boarded flights to Aruba to begin a frantic search for their daughter. Beth Twitty talked to chaperones and Natalee’s friends. Hearing about the three boys Natalee had last been seen with, Beth and George Twitty made their way to van der Sloot’s home. The pair hoped that it was a simple accident, that Natalee had lost track of time while spending the evening with van der Sloot and that they would find her safe and sound at her home. But van der Sloot wouldn’t come to the door. Instead, Beth Twitty was left to beg with Deepak Kalpoe. With Natalee’s friends on speakerphone, Beth begged with Deepak at the door to let her in to talk to van der Sloot face to face. He insisted that he, his brother and van der Sloot had delivered Natalee safely back to the hotel the night before. Beth Twitty and Natalee’s friends were sure that van der Sloot was the key to finding Natalee. Kalpoe turned the pleading Beth away, as her friends screamed into the phone from a living room where they had gathered in Alabama. Beth and Natalee’s friends felt defeated and more terrified: Surely, if Natalee were inside the home, she would have come out. It seemed sinister that van der Sloot refused to even speak with the Twitties. With Beth turned away at van der Sloot’s home, the Aruban police would be her only hope in locating her daughter. Would they have more luck with van der Sloot than she did?
As it was evident that Natalee’s disappearance wasn’t a simple misunderstanding or a case of a girl losing track of time and missing her flight, Aruban police sprang to action. They searched the tiny island’s beaches and tourist hotspots. They talked to Natalee’s friends and the trip chaperones. They needed to know every detail of Natalee’s last night in Aruba: Where had she gone? Who had she talk to? When was the last time she had been seen? Everyone turned the police’s attention back to Jaren van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers. They seemed to be the last ones who had seen Natalee alive. What would they tell police about Natalee’s disappearance?
Joran van der Sloot would keep his story simple and innocent sounding. In his first statement to police, van der Sloot said he and the Kalpoe brothers had danced and drunk with Natalee the night before at Carlos ‘N Charlie’s. Natalee had left with them in the Kalpoes’ car. Van der Sloot said he and Natalee planned to go to the California lighthouse because she wanted to see the sharks. She had decided against it, van der Sloot told police, because it was late and she didn’t want to miss her flight home. Van der Sloot said he and the Kalpoe’s drove Natalee back to the Days Inn. He reported that Natalee was so drunk she could barely walk inside. Van der Sloot said, they watched a hotel security guard approach a stumbling Natalee as she made her way to the hotel’s lobby. That, van der Sloot swore, was the last they had seen of Natalee Holloway. The story seemed innocent enough. But it was the first of many stories van der Sloot would tell the police, the Holloways and journalists in the years following Natalee’s disappearance. And Dave Holloway’s private investigator would turn up one more story of what happened to Holloway while she was with van der Sloot, and that tale would lead Holloway to his shocking discovery. Just how was van der Sloot connected to Natalee’s disappearance?
With no helpful information from van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers, the search for Natalee intensified. The Aruban military helped comb the island and sent search and rescue ships into the water to look for a body. Locals on the island helped with search efforts, and local banks helped raise funds to support the Holloways in their search. The hotel’s security staff scoured camera footage from the night Natalee disappeared. They argued about what they saw in the video, and nothing was found that could give any clue as to what happened to Natalee that night. Police looked more intensely at the three boys who were last seen with Natalee. Their phones were tapped, their emails were read and they were tailed by police. Police searched the car that matched the description of the one Natalee had gotten into that night. Blood covered the backseat, but police determined that it was unrelated to Natalee’s disappearance. The search for Natalee seemed to have hit a dead end. With so few clues, the story was about to go international.
As days passed without any signs of Natalee, her disappearance started to gain more and more attention. Stories of her disappearance were splashed across newspapers around the world, and cable news channels reported the details of her disappearance around the clock. The U.S. Government got involved. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made contact with Aruban Prime Minister Nelson Orlando Oduber. Oduber also spoke with Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Sen. Jeff Sessions. Five FBI agents were dispatched to the island to help in the search for Natalee. The agents were accompanied by trained search dogs to help try to locate Natalee. But even with all of the media attention and pressure and assistance from the U.S. Government, no signs of Natalee could be found on Aruba. Aruban police came to one conclusion: Natalee’s disappearance must have involved foul play. But what exactly happened to her that night?
On June 9, less than two weeks after Natalee Holloway disappeared, Aruban police would release a heartbreaking statement. The nation’s Minister of Justice released a statement saying all evidence acquired by police indicated that Natalee was, in fact, dead. Shortly after, however, the minister would rescind the shocking statement. Claiming that he received faulty information in the case, the minister released a retraction three-days later. In that statement, the minister said that the case of Natalee’s disappearance was still an active and open investigation for Aruban police. Even though it was retracted, the statement was a devastating blow to Natalee’s family. Where was Natalee, and who would be held responsible for her disappearance? The investigation seemed to be stuck with no answers, but action soon would be taken in the case.
Under the harsh spotlight of international scrutiny, Aruban police began making arrests in the case of Natalee Holloway’s disappearance. First, two security guards from the Holiday Inn Aruba, where Natalee was staying, were arrested on the suspicion of murder. With no evidence against the guards, however, they were released six days later. On June 9, Van der Sloot and Satish and Deepak Kalpoe were next arrested. Joran’s father, Paul van der Sloot, a high-ranking justice official, also would be arrested on June 23 on murder conspiracy charges. Now under pressure from the police and facing serious murder charges, Satish and Deepak Kalpoe changed their story. In custody, the Kalpoe brothers insisted that they dropped van der Sloot and Natalee off at the hotel the night she had disappeared, and that was the last they saw of the pair. The Kalpoe brothers and Paul van der Sloot were released by police in four days after Paul van der Sloot’s arrest due to lack of evidence. Van der Sloot continued to insist that he was innocent. He would remain in police custody for two months. As van der Sloot remained the prime suspect in Holloway’s disappearance, he would fall under intense public scrutiny. Who was Joran van der Sloot? At only 17 years old, was he capable of murder?
Joran van der Sloot was born in the Netherlands. His father was a well-to-do lawyer, and his mother was a socialite. Joran was an honors student and a soccer star who hoped to attend college in the United States on a soccer scholarship. His family often traveled to exotic locales for his father’s job. When Joran was 16, the family relocated to Aruba when his father accepted a five-year position as a judge on the island. With a well-placed father who knew the other judges and the police chief on the island, Joran was able to do as he liked on the island with impunity. He was a well-known partier who was known for picking up young women around from local bars and social hotspots. Many people alleged that he would slip the women date-rape drugs, but those claims are unproven. Joran was known for his love of gambling, and his father had a $5,000 line of credit established at a local casino that Joran would regularly take advantage of. So how would a local with an unsavory reputation come into contact with an American high schooler on short vacation and soon be held accountable for her disappearance and possible murder?
According to her friends, Natalee met Joran van der Sloot in Aruba at the Excelsior casino, one of van der Sloot’s frequent gambling spots. Her friends reported that Natalee chatted with van der Sloot as the two played black jack. That story was easily proved true: As investigators tried to piece together the timeline of Natalee’s disappearance, surveillance video surfaced of the two sitting and talking at a casino table. While Natalee made pleasant small talk with van der Sloot, her friends said, she mentioned her plans to go with her friends to Carlos ‘N Charlie’s on the Sunday night before their departure. Natalee’s friend later recalled that van der Sloot responded that he never went out on Sunday nights because the party scene was too low-key on the island on the first night of the week. When Joran van der Sloot then showed up at Carlos ‘N Charlie’s on Sunday night, the friend later said she felt surprised and uncomfortable. Why would van der Sloot seek out Natalee on the last night of her visit to Aruba, especially when he specifically disparaged Natalee’s Sunday night plans? Perhaps if one of her friends had raised the alarm about van der Sloot that night, Natalee’s story would have ended very differently.
In September of 2005, Joran van der Sloot was released from jail, and no charges were filed in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. At the time, there were several stories and theories on what happened to Natalee on the night of May 30. Joran van der Sloot and his family maintained that he left a very drunk Natalee on the beach in Aruba — a break in his original story that he, along with Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, dropped a drunk and stumbling Natalee at the hotel and watched her approached by security guards. One informant told the sensational tabloid National Enquirer that Natalee had slipped and hit her head on a rock while on the beach with Joran. In a panic, and heavily under the influence of drugs and alcohol, Joran dumped her body in the ocean. Another circulating theory was that Natalee either overdosed on a drug or suffered from alcohol poisoning while off with van der Sloot. After she seized and foamed at the mouth, Joran disposed of her body in the water. Some claimed that his father, Paul van der Sloot, helped Joran get rid of Natalee’s lifeless body. What was the truth?
Even as multiple stories turned up with no sign of Natalee anywhere on Aruba, Natalee’s father Dave Holloway and mother Beth Holloway Twitty continued their desperate search for their daughter. Beth Holloway Twitty continued to pursue Joran van der Sloot as the person who held the key to unlocking the mystery of Natalee’s disappearance. Beth Holloway Twitty visited Joran van der Sloot and insisted answers on her daughter’s whereabouts and on what had happened to Natalee. In interviews, Beth Holloway Twitty noted Joran’s arrogance and his coldness when dealing with an emotional and devastating situation. When Beth Holloway Twitty demanded of van der Sloot, “I want my daughter; I want her back,” Beth Holloway Twitty said Joran dealt with her dismissively and aggressively: “He kept hitting his chest and saying, ‘What do you want me to do?’”
Out of jail and ready to move on with his life, Joran van der Sloot would return to Holland, where he would attend college and study engineering. The Holloway case wasn’t over for him, however. He was rearrested by in 2007 when more evidence apparently surfaced in Natalee’s disappearance. Chatroom records turned up, police said, in which Joran van der Sloot referred to Natalee as being dead the same day she went missing. Van der Sloot was returned to Aruba to stand trial. Shortly after, however, he would be released after Aruban judges would rule that the evidence van der Sloot was tied to Natalee’s disappearance still wasn’t strong enough for a trial. In years to come, van der Sloot would make shocking revelations regarding Natalee Holloway’s disappearance and alleged death. Would the new evidence turned up by Dave Holloway support one of these claims?
After van der Sloot’s second release from Aruban jail for the death and disappearance of Natalee Holloway, van der Sloot would continue to make headlines. First, in 2008, a Dutch journalist would get an apparent confession from van der Sloot. The journalist posed as a criminal and drug dealer to make friends with van der Sloot. During a conversation in the journalist’s car, which was filmed by secret cameras, van der Sloot claimed that he and Natalee were walking on the beach when she collapsed and suffered a seizure. Van der Sloot claimed Natalee died in his arms. He called a friend with a boat, and they took Natalee’s body to sea, dumping it overboard. If it never reappeared, van der Sloot assumed, he could not be held accountable for her death. After the video was released, police said they could not use it as evidence because it was taken without van der Sloot’s knowledge. Van der Sloot claimed that he was lying and that he made up the story to try to impress the journalist. Six months later, van der Sloot would make an appearance on the Fox News show On the Record. During an interview with host Greta van Susteren, van der Sloot would claim that he sold Natalee into slavery to an anonymous man for $10,000. He would later contact the show to say that he fabricated the story. Another story that surfaced was that Natalee snorted cocaine before falling off a balcony to her death. None of these stories would gain traction, but Natalee’s parents continued to hold out hope that they would discover the truth. It seems, now, that they might.
In the years after Natalee’s disappearance, her parents remained desperate for answers. Feeding on that desperation, van der Sloot offered to lead the Holloways to Natalee’s remains in exchange for $250,000. According to an affidavit later filed by Dave Holloway and Beth Holloway Twitty, they transferred a $10,000 down payment to van der Sloot through a bank in the Netherlands. Van der Sloot directed the Holloways to a vacant housing lot in Aruba. Van der Sloot claimed that his father had helped him bury Natalee’s body on the lot. The property was thoroughly searched for remains, but nothing was found. The incident would lead to extortion charges for van der Sloot in the state of Alabama. The charges remain outstanding, but van der Sloot would soon come to justice for his apparent crimes.
When every stone seemed to have been turned in the search for Natalee Holloway or her remains, photos surfaced in 2010 that seemed like they could reveal what became of the Alabama teen’s body. While snorkeling off the beaches of Aruba, a Pennsylvania couple snapped an underwater photo that they were convinced were Natalee’s remains. The photo showed what appeared to be a prone skeleton, curled on the bottom of the ocean floor. The photos were taken near the beach where Joran van der Sloot had allegedly taken Natalee the night she disappeared. The man who snapped the photo said it seemed to be too big a coincidence that he and his wife would spot a skeleton so close to where Natalee disappeared to have it not be her. He said he had a “gut feeling” the bones were Natalee’s. Would his gut feeling turn out to be true?
Expressing their devotion for discovering what happened to Natalee Holloway, Aruban officials launched a scuba-diving expedition to look for the remains found by the Pennsylvania divers to determine whether they could belong to Natalee Holloway. As the investigation launched, officials expressed their doubt, saying a skeleton left underwater for so many years would be unlikely to remain intact; it would have been more likely that small bones would have been carried off by fish or that currents would carry the entire skeleton away. After an extensive search, Aruban officials determined that the divers had photographed coral. It seemed that the Holloways had gotten their hopes up once more. But soon after, more remains would surface on Aruba, giving investigators one more place to look for Natalee Holloway. Would the Holloways finally discover the truth?
Later that year, in November, an American tourist walking along the beach on the west side of Aruba would make a grisly discovery: A human jawbone. Instantly, thoughts turned to Natalee Holloway. A Dutch forensics operation offered to take the bone fragment and test the DNA to determine whether the bone could be Natalee’s. At this point, Dave Holloway and Beth Holloway Twitty expressed little hope that they would have closure in the case, saying they had been disappointed too many times before. While the discovery of the human jawbone in Aruba once again turned up a flurry of media attention for the Natalee Holloway case, it proved to have a quick and unexciting end. Aruban officials quickly determined that the jawbone could not be Natalee Holloway’s. The jawbone contained fully developed wisdom teeth; Natalee’s wisdom teeth had not yet grown in. While this proved disappointing for the Holloways, they wouldn’t give up hope at finding their missing daughter. That hope might prove fruitful at last. And while searches in Aruba didn’t provide the closure they sought, a grisly murder in Peru would at least result in the consequences for Joran van der Sloot that the Holloways longed to see. It seemed that van der Sloot really was capable of murder.
On May 30, 2010, exactly five years to the date after Natalee’s disappearance, Joran van der Sloot would be involved in the disappearance of another women. This time, the evidence would be too much for van der Sloot to overcome. Twenty-one-year-old Stephany Flores was found in a hotel room in Lima, Peru, with multiple stab wounds. The hotel room was registered in van der Sloot’s name. After an extensive manhunt, van der Sloot would be found and charged with the crime. While he initially denied any connection with Flores’ death, van der Sloot later said that he left the room for coffee and returned to find Flores searching his computer for evidence that he was responsible for Natalee Holloway’s disappearance. Sloot said he was drunk and flew into a rage, during which he beat Flores, eventually snapping her neck. Police would find her covered in blood and wrapped in a hotel bedsheet. Just like Natalee, van der Sloot met Flores on the floor of a casino where he was entered in a poker tournament in Lima. Flores father later said he believed the two struck up a conversation because they could both speak English. Unlike Natalee, it seemed like there was ample evidence against van der Sloot in the death of Stephany Flores. Would van der Sloot finally be held accountable for his crimes?
Once again, van der Sloot’s story would start to change. Van der Sloot went back on his initial confession in Flores’ death. He claimed that it was made under duress and that he was pressured by Lima police. “I was tricked,” van der Sloot told one Dutch newspaper. “I’ll explain later how it all happened.” Facing insurmountable evidence, including the blood that was found on his clothes when he was arrested, van der Sloot would have no choice by to face the consequences of Flores’ murder. He pleaded guilty to Flores’ murder in January 2012. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison, which he is currently serving in a Lima prison. In 2013, Lima courts ruled that they would extradite van der Sloot to Alabama upon his release to face his extortion charges. Flores might have justice, but would there ever be justice for Natalee? Dave Holloway and Beth Holloway Twitty would continue to search for answers, which they might have gotten at last.
Upon learning about van der Sloot’s arrest in connection with another girl’s death, Beth Holloway Twitty seized the opportunity to confront van der Sloot about Natalee’s disappearance once again. She flew to Peru without her lawyer’s knowledge and snuck into Peru’s infamous Castro Castro prison alongside a Dutch journalist to talk to van der Sloot about Natalee. During their brief discussion, which Beth Holloway Twitty recorded with a hidden camera, she reportedly told van der Sloot that she held “no hate in her heart” for him, regardless of the role he played in Natalee’s disappearance. She also questioned him about the events that took place the night of Natalee’s disappearance, but he declined to answer her queries. She left the prison after a 5-minute interaction with van der Sloot. Due to sneaking into the prison, Beth Holloway Twitty would be briefly detained by Peruvian police. Aruban investigators also would travel to the prison to question van der Sloot about Natalee’s disappearance, but their inquiries, too, would turn up no new information about what happened to Natalee or her whereabouts. Would this be the end of the road in the Holloways’ quest to find out what happened to their only daughter?
In 2012, seven years after 18-year-old Natalee Holloway disappeared on a dream Aruban getaway with her classmates, there was still no indication of what had happened to her the night of May 30 after she got into a car leaving an Aruban bar with Joran van der Sloot and Satish and Deepak Kalpoe. With no idea what happened to his daughter, Dave Holloway petitioned Alabama courts to have Natalee officially declared dead. An Alabama judge signed an order declaring Natalee legally dead on Jan. 12, 2012, during a small courtroom ceremony. Beth Holloway Twitty opposed the decision, saying with no evidence to prove that Natalee was killed in Aruba, she still hopes and prays for her daughter’s safe return. Dave Holloway said the measure was needed to help settle legal and financial matters related to Natalee, and that he hoped the ruling would help him and his family to move forward from Natalee’s tragic disappearance. “We’ve been dealing with this death for the last six and a half years,” Dave Holloway told reporters regarding the ruling. “Hopefully, this meeting today will (provide) some closure.” The years that would come revealed that Dave Holloway wouldn’t find closure in Natalee’s official death, and his pursuit of the truth may, in fact, have led to some real answers.
More than a decade after Natalee’s disappearance, and nearly five years after she was declared dead in the Holloway’s search for closure, Natalee’s father, Dave Holloway, would decide that he could no longer deal with the uncertainty surrounding Natalee’s disappearance and likely death. Dave Holloway contracted with private investigator T. J. Ward to search for answers in Natalee’s disappearance. The search would become a six-part series on the Oxygen television network titled “The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway.” While Dave Holloway had no way of knowing what Ward would turn up in regards to Natalee, a few months into their search, it seemed as though Dave Holloway might have the answers he’d been looking for in Natalee’s disappearance.
During his search for answers, private investigator T.J. Ward would meet Gabriel Madrigal. Madrigal said he had heard tales of Natalee’s disappearance, and the disposal of her remains, from John Ludwick, a longtime friend of Joran van der Sloot. Madrigal said Ludwick had a host of wild stories about how Natalee Holloway had died. All of the stories centered on Natalee being drugged, raped and killed by van der Sloot. Years after Natalee’s death, Ludwick said van der Sloot had asked for his help in digging up her remains. Once dug up, the two men pulverized the bones, mixing them with fragments of dog bones to make the more difficult to identify, before reburying them. Through Madrigal, Ward met Ludwick. He directed them to the location of the buried bones and provided them with fragments that he claimed he had saved. Would testing reveal the bones to belong to Natalee?
An Aruban prosecutor said investigators had been led by Dave Holloway and T.J. Ward to the location where the pulverized and cremated remains were allegedly found. They did find remains, and they were tested by a forensics lab, but the tests shows that the remains were not humans. Aruban investigators turned the remains over to Ward, and they were shipped off to an American forensics lab for testing. That lab contradicted the initial findings. Yes, there were dog bones in the mix, but there also were human remains, the lab reported. And, DNA showed the remains belonged to a person of European descent, meaning they could belong to Natalee Holloway. The announcement from the lab came three days before the Oxygen premier. The public would have to tune in to find out more. And more testing would be needed to determine whether the remains belonged to Natalee Holloway.
In October 2017, the forensics lab revealed the truth: Mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bone fragments did not match DNA samples provided by Beth Holloway Twitty, meaning the bone fragments could not have belonged to Natalee Holloway. So whose remains were they? The forensics lab, and Aruban investigators, have not indicated whether they will perform further testing on the bones, though there are three other missing persons cases open on Aruba that the bone fragments could provide answers to. When questioned about the remains not belonging to Holloway, informant Gabriel Madrigal has told media outlets that he and Ludwick would be willing to reveal the true location of
Natalee Holloway’s remains, for the right price. As for the Holloways, however, the remains and the Oxygen show on Natalee’s disappearance would open a can of worms, and the fallout of the documentary and the investigation remain to be seen. What more would happen in the story of Natalee Holloway?
After the Oxygen documentary finished airing in September 2017, it brought on a barrage of criticism that it was nothing more than sensationalism. In February 2018, Beth Holloway filed a $35-million lawsuit against Oxygen, claiming the documentary misled viewers. The investigation was not conducted in real time, the lawsuit claims, and misrepresents what was really uncovered by investigation. The finding and testing of remains, the claims said, were nothing more than theatrics meant to draw viewers to the supposed documentary. On a personal note, the documentary dragged up horrible images and traumatic feelings for Beth Holloway, critics have claimed. The mother had to hear worst case scenarios of her daughter’s disappearance, all for the purpose of ratings. Oxygen denies those claims, saying producers worked closely with T.J. Ward and Dave Holloway through their investigation to produce the documentary. While the documentary might have provided false hope and false leads, there is one other man who claims he knows what became of Natalee Holloway the night she went missing, and so far, research has gained credibility to his claims. There seems to be more to Natalee Holloway’s story.
There’s one claim about Natalee’s whereabouts that hasn’t been extensively investigated, and there is some evidence showing that it might be credible. A Dutch national who was in Aruba when Natalee claims he saw witnessed Joran van der Sloot and Natalee Holloway that night, long after any other witnesses had seen the pair. The main claims he was near the site of Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club, which was under construction at the time. He claimed that he saw a woman being chased by a man through the site. The man grabbed the woman by the ankles and pulled her into the crawl space beneath the building site, the witness said. After a short period of time, the man re-emerged from the crawl space, but the woman did not. The witness said he did not contact police at the time because he was involved in illegal activities on the island at the time and did not want to attract the attention of police. When the man did come forward publicly, police dismissed his claims, saying the hotel was not yet under construction at the time, so he could not be right about Natalee’s disappearance. However, after the initial dismissal of the man’s claims, satellite images of the site show that the hotel was, in fact, under construction on May 30, 2005, and there was a crawl space like the man described. Could Natalee Holloway be entombed under a luxurious Aruban hotel?
As he spends his time in prison in Peru, it’s become more and more clear that the Holloways can’t expect any credible clues from Joran van der Sloot. From prison, he has married and had a baby with a Peruvian woman. In a recorded conversation with her, which has since been released on the website of the tabloid National Enquirer, van der Sloot has said that he told lie after lie to police in Natalee Holloway’s disappearance. He provided no clues about what happened to her. He did not express remorse for his actions, in the case of Natalee Holloway or Stephany Flores, but he did say that he deserved the punishment he was receiving in prison. “I always lied to the police,” van der Sloot said of the Holloway investigation in the release. “Yes. This is also where I am guilty and I accept everything I have done.” Van der Sloot stopped short of saying that he was responsible for Natalee Holloway’s disappearance or death. Would that be enough to provide closure for Dave Holloway and Beth Holloway Twitty?
Since 2010, Beth Holloway has worked to honor Natalee’s memory by helping the families of missing persons. In 2010, Beth Holloway opened the Natalee Holloway Resource Center at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C. The organization provides support for families whose loved ones go missing by helping them to make the connections to government officials and the media to get the resources the need quickly. While it’s hard to gain closure about Natalee’s disappearance, she said it helps to know that Joran van der Sloot, who she still holds responsible for Natalee’s disappearance and likely death, is locked in a Peruvian prison and will be extradited the United States on extortion charges upon his release. She said the ultimate justice, for her, would be to see van der Sloot locked in an American prison for his crimes. Dave Holloway works as an insurance agent in Mississippi. He said the documentary and the investigation have helped him get closer to closure just by talking through Natalee’s disappearance and all of the possibilities of what could have happened to her. So will we ever have answers about the disappearance of Natalee Holloway?
It seems that the disappearance of Natalee Holloway might be set to remain one of the greatest unsolved mystery cases of our time. With no known witnesses and a primary suspect who refuses to answer questions, it seems most likely that the world will never know what became of the bright, beautiful recent high-school graduate who was set to attend college on a full scholarship on the path to becoming a doctor. What made her go with Joran van der Sloot and Satish and Deepak Kalpoe that night in May 2005? And what became of her after they left the Aruban hotspot? Was her death an accident that a panicked teenager, high on drugs and drunk, worked to cover up? Was Natalee intentionally murdered by a 17-year-old boy who would go on to murder another young, beautiful stranger he met in another casino only five years later? Or, seemingly against all odds, is Natalee Holloway still alive somewhere in the world after being abducted or sold into slavery by van der Sloot or someone else on the tropical island? Perhaps someday, another witness will come forward, evidence or remains will be found, or van der Sloot or an unknown perpetrator will come forward to reveal what happened to Natalee Holloway, solving one of the world’s most famous missing persons case.