MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Natalee Holloway’s parents gathered in a room at an Alabama jail on Oct. 3 to watch the man long-suspected in their daughter’s 2005 disappearance describe how he killed her.
For three hours Joran van der Sloot was questioned — first by his own attorney and then by FBI agents — about what happened to Holloway, said Mark White, an attorney representing Natalee’s father, Dave Holloway.
“Chilling,” White said of watching and listening to van der Sloot’s account. “It was listening to a person who lacks any sort of moral compass.”
Van der Sloot’s admission that he killed Holloway came as part of a plea deal in a related extortion case after months of work and was agreed to by her parents in order to get answers about what happened to their daughter. The plea deal required van der Sloot to make a proffer — providing information about what he knew about the crime — and to let her parents witness the statement in “real time.”
Van der Sloot then had to take a polygraph exam to test the truthfulness of his account, according to court documents.
Natalee Holloway, 18, went missing during a high school graduation trip to Aruba with classmates. She was last seen May 30, 2005, leaving a bar with van der Sloot, a Dutch citizen. The disappearance quickly became an international story.
Van der Sloot was extradited in June from Peru — where he was in prison for killing another woman — to the United States to face trial on federal charges that he tried to extort money from Holloway’s mother to reveal the location of her daughter’s body.
White said he got notification in August that there was discussion of doing a proffer as part of a plea deal.
“Dave has always been interested in getting the truth. I’d say initially everybody was skeptical if he would be that forthcoming or just back out at the last minute. We decided we would engage in the process and take it one step at a time,” White said.
The proffer was made on Oct. 3 at the Shelby County Jail, where van der Sloot was being held. Holloway’s parents watched an audio and video feed from a nearby room as van der Sloot was questioned.
“Going into that room that day, both parties kind of went in with a mutual understanding of why we were there and what we hoped to accomplish,” an FBI official told CNN of the day they sat down with van der Sloot.
White said agents were “very, very methodical” in their questioning. “It became apparent they had utilized every resource of the Bureau,” White said.
Van der Sloot said Holloway was physically fighting his sexual advances and that he kicked her “extremely hard” in the face while she was still lying down. Van der Sloot said the teen was unconscious, or possibly already dead, when he picked up a nearby cinderblock and brought it down on her.
“It’s just blistering to your soul, and it hurts so deeply,” Beth Holloway told The Associated Press earlier this month of listening to the account. “But you know that you’re there in a functionality role because this is the moment where I’ve been searching for for 18 years. Even as hard as it is to hear, it still not as torturous as the not knowing. It was time for me to know.”
The plea agreement also required that van der Sloot take a polygraph test. White said that was an important component because they were trying to determine if he “scammed us with this latest story.” He said the report that they received “had the highest level of confidence that he was telling the truth.”
Beth Holloway said that she was “absolutely” confident that they had finally obtained the truth about what happened.
Dave Holloway in a statement said he accepted that van der Sloot alone killed his daughter, but continues to question if others helped him conceal the crime.