WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
When I was fairly young and impressionable, I watched a Lifetime movie about Natalee Holloway, and because she was one of the first disappearances I had ever learned about, I assumed she was one of the only people ever to have disappeared. (Unfortunately, not true.) However, her disappearance remains as one of the most well-known, high-profile disappearances and there are so many layers to the mystery.
Natalee Holloway disappeared on May 30, 2005, when she was 18. She was on a high school graduation trip to Aruba, but was from Mountain Brook, Alabama, and had just graduated from high school a few days before her trip. The media sensation surrounding her disappearance was extreme, but despite nearly everyone in the U.S. knowing her name, the case has never been solved.
Classmates were alerted to her disappearance when she was scheduled to fly home, but did not arrive for the flight. She was last seen outside of a restaurant and nightclub in the area, and had gotten into a car with local residents. Those residents have been questioned and some even arrested, but have all been released for lack of evidence.
Despite searches put together with hundreds of volunteers, Holloway's body has never been found. Though it is not known if she was kidnapped and still alive, or if she was murdered, she was declared legally dead in absentia on January 12, 2012.
BACKGROUND AND DISAPPEARANCE (1)
Natalee was the first of 2 kids born to her parents Dave and Beth Holloway. The couple divorced in 1993, and both Natalee and her younger brother Matthew were raised by their mother. Beth married George Twitty in 2000, and the family moved from Memphis, Tennessee to Mountain Brook, Alabama.
Natalee graduated high school with honors in May of 2005. She was a member of the National Honor Society and the school dance squad, among other extracurricular activities. She had gotten into the University of Alabama on a full ride scholarship where she planned to study pre-med and become a doctor.
On May 26, 2005, Natalee and 124 other students arrived in Aruba for a 5-day post-graduation trip. They were accompanied by 7 chaperones who met with the students daily to make sure everything was going okay, but they weren't supposed to keep their eye on every move.
The police commissioner, Gerold Dompig, claimed that the students were not very well-behaved. They were attending wild parties, drinking a lot, and were switching rooms on a nightly basis. Natalee herself was drinking excessively, suffering morning hangovers and drinking to the point that her classmates thought it was excessive. (However, certainly more people were doing the same, but when you disappear, your life is the one that is under scrutiny.) The Holiday Inn the students were staying in told them they were not welcome back the next year due to the partying, drinking and rule breaking.
Natalee was last seen at around 1:30 AM on Monday, May 30, leaving a bar and nightclub in Oranjestad. She left with 17-year-old Jordan van der Sloot, a Dutch honors student living in Aruba, and 2 of his Surinamese friends, brothers Deepak Kalpoe and Satish Kalpoe, ages 21 and 18 respectively.
She was supposed to return home later that day, but did not show up for the return flight. Her packed luggage and passport were found in her room.
Immediately upon being alerted that their daughter had missed her flight and was not able to be reached, Dave and Beth flew with friends to Aruba by private jet. They immediately suspected Van der Sloot, as Beth stated that his full name was given to her by the hotel manager who recognized him from a videotape.
When questioned, he initially denied knowing her, but he eventually recounted a story that was corrobrated by the brothers he was with: They drove her to the California Lighthouse area of Arashi Beach because Natalee wanted to see the sharks, and then dropped her off at her hotel around 2:00 AM. She allegedly fell down when exiting the car, but refused help. He claimed she was approached by a dark man in a black shirt, like the ones the security guards wore, as they were driving away.
Search and rescue efforts began immediately, and hundreds of volunteers from Aruba and the U.S. joined. Aruban civil servants were given the day off to help search, and banks raised $20,000 for the efforts. Beth was provided housing in local hotels free of charge.
The first arrests in the case were made on June 5, 2005. Police detailed Nick John and Abraham Jones, 2 former security guards from a nearby hotel. Authorities never really said why they were arrested, but it is assumed it was because something that Van der Sloot or the Kalpoe brothers said. They had prior incidents with law enforcement and picking up women, so they kind of fit the bill. However, they were released on June 13 with no charges.
Van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers were arrested on June 9. A 6th suspect, a DJ named Steve Gregory Croes was arrested on June 17, based on information from another one of the detainees. Van der Sloot's father was arrested on June 22, but he and Croes were released without charge on June 26.
The stories of the detainees changed multiple times. At some point, all 3 men said that Van der Sloot and Holloway were dropped off together at a beach, but Van der Sloot said he did not hurt her, but left her alone on the beach. Van der Sloot's inability to tell the same story left him detained for an additional 60 days after the Kalpoe brothers were released on July 4.
Various tips came in, leading to multiple searches, but they all came up fruitless. Natalee's family offered rewards, up to $250,000 for information leading to her remains.
On August 26, the Kalpoe brothers were arrested again, this time with 21-year-old Freddy Arambatzis. He had been suspected of taking photos of underage girls, but this happened before Natalee's disappearance. The arrest of the Kalpoe brothers was primarily to try and get them to confess, or give up Van der Sloot. But, after unsuccessful interrogations, all 4 of the men were released on September 3.
Van der Sloot gave several interviews after his release, detailing his version of events. He indicated that Natalee wanted to have sex with him, but he didn't have a condom. He said that she wanted to stay on the beach together, but he had school the next day. He claimed to have left her on the beach, and was not truthful originally because he felt bad leaving a young, drunk girl on a beach alone.
New suspects were arrested in 2006, including Geoffrey van Cromvoirt on April 15, who police believed may have information into Natalee's disappearance, but he was released on April 25. Another unidentified man, with the initials A.B., was arrested on April 22, but released the same day. Guido Wever, the son of a former Aruban politician, was arrested on May 27, but released shortly thereafter.
Van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers were re-arrested on November 21, 2007, but the brothers were ordered to be released by a judge on November 30. Van der Sloot was released without charge on December 7 due to lack of evidence.
On Marcy 29, 2010, Can der Sloot contacted Beth's legal representative, offering to reveal the location of Natalee's body and the circumstances surrounding her death if he was given $250,000. However, the house he said she was buried in was not even built at the time of her disappearance, and thus, he was charged with extortion and wire fraud. He said he did it to get back at Natalee's family for making his life hell for 5 years.
On May 30, 2018, exactly 5 years after Natalee disappeared, Van der Sloot was charged with the murder of 21-year-old business student Stephany Flores Ramirez who was found dead in a hotel room registered to him. He confessed to killing her after he lost his temper because she was using his laptop without permission, trying to link him to Natalee's death. He pleaded guilty to murdering Flores and was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Being one of the most high-profile disappearance cases in modern history, many people have their thoughts as to what happened to Natalee Holloway on that night in Aruba.
The most widely accepted version of events is that Jordan Van der Sloot killed her and dumped her body in the ocean where it has not been found. Though there is some disagreement on how she actually ended up dead, most people believe that he knows what happened. Some think that he actually murdered her in cold blood, while others believe he gave her drugs that ended up killing her, or she died of alcohol poisoning and he didn't know what to do.
Van der Sloot's later murder of Flores makes some lean more toward the theory that he didn't accidentally kill her via drugs or alcohol, but snapped in a moment of rage, as he did with his confirmed victim. Perhaps he tried to have sex with her and she refused or tried to rape her and she fought back, and he snapped and killed her. He didn't set out with the intention to murder someone, but in a fit of rage, he ended her life and panicked and threw her body into the water.
But regardless of what actually happened, one user on Reddit sums it up well: Jordan either killed her, or she died in his presence. What happened after that is unknown, his father's potential involvement in covering up the crimes cannot be determined, but whatever happened that night, she likely died while with Jordan Van der Sloot, and he knows everything that happened next.
Apparently, a popular theory in Aruba is that Natalee is alive, but in hiding. While this isn't a popular theory, it is a theory that pops up in most disappearance cases, which is that she went away on her own accord to start a new life.
At some point, Van der Sloot said that he sold Natalee into sexual slavery, but retracted his comments. This is probably the second most popular theory, that she is still alive and was sex trafficked, but it doesn't seem as likely as dying the night in question, her body being disposed of so no one could find her.
More than likely, tragically and sadly, Natalee probably died in the earliest morning hours of May 30, 2005, either at the hands of Van der Sloot, or in the presence of him. He likely knows where her body is, or at least if it is in the ocean or on land. He was well-connected and wealthy, and so far has been able to evade being convicted of the killing, even though it is fairly widely accepted that he was involved.
Natalee Holloway is a name that rings a bell for most people, even if they are not interested in mysterious stories or true crime. Her case shocked and held the attention of the nation, and her family has never stopped searching for her and advocating for her. The case really seems to be "unofficially" resolved, as most believe the answers lie within the brain of Jordan Van der Sloot, who is serving time for someone else's murder. And though that doesn't bring the closure to the Holloway family that they desire, it hopefully brings them some level of peace that the man who is likely responsible for Natalee's disappearance 15 years ago today will not be able to kill again.