Prime suspect in Natalee Holloway’s 2005 disappearance to face extortion charges

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – Joran van der Sloot, the prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway, arrived at the courthouse Friday morning to face charges he attempted to extort money from the mother of the missing teenager.

Van der Sloot was extradited to the United States on Thursday from Peru, where he is serving a 28-year prison sentence after confessing to killing a Peruvian woman. He will face a federal judge in Birmingham, not far from the suburb where Holloway grew up, in his first court appearance in the case.

Holloway’s mother, Beth Holloway, is expected to attend, a rep said.

“For 18 years I lived with the unbearable pain of losing Natalee,” she said in a statement Thursday. “Each day has been filled with unanswered questions and a longing for justice that has eluded us at every turn. But today…I am hopeful that a small semblance of justice can finally be achieved.

Van der Sloot is charged with one count of extortion and wire fraud – the only charges to ever link the Dutch citizen to Holloway’s disappearance on the Caribbean island of Aruba. He was returned to the United States about a month after the two countries agreed on his extradition.

Natalee Holloway, 18, was on a high school graduation trip with classmates in Aruba when she disappeared in 2005. She was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot, who was a student at an international school on the island. Van der Sloot was identified as the prime suspect and detained weeks later for questioning, along with two Surinamese brothers, but no charges were filed in the case.

A judge pronounced Holloway dead, but her body was never found.

US prosecutors say that in 2010 van der Sloot contacted Beth Holloway, asking for $250,000 to reveal the location of the young woman’s body. A grand jury indicted him that year.

Holloway’s mysterious disappearance has sparked years of media coverage and countless true-crime podcasts.

In 2012, van der Sloot pleaded guilty in Peru to the murder of Stephany Flores, 21, a business student from a prominent Peruvian family. She was killed in 2010 five years to the day after Holloway disappeared.

Van der Sloot married a Peruvian in July 2014 in a ceremony at a maximum security prison. He was moved between Peruvian prisons in response to reports that he had privileges such as television, internet access and a cellphone, and accusations that he threatened to kill a guard.

A 2001 treaty between Peru and the United States allows a suspect to be temporarily extradited to face trial in the other country. Van der Sloot’s lawyer, Máximo Altez, initially indicated that his client would not contest his extradition, but that changed on Monday when he filed a writ of habeas corpus. A judge ruled against van der Sloot the following day.

Peru has agreed to let van der Sloot remain in U.S. custody until Alabama’s case, including any appeal if he is found guilty, is concluded, according to a released resolution in the Federal Registry of Peru. U.S. authorities agree to return van der Sloot to Peruvian custody after that, the resolution says.

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