Many schools plan a trip for their graduating seniors. Most seniors look forward to this trip all year long, and they are supposed to be safe. That is precisely what Beth Holloway and Dave Holloway thought when their daughter Natalie’s school was planning a trip.
Natalee is from Birmingham, Alabama. She graduated from Mountain Brook School with honors. She was a member of the dance squad, the National Honor Society, and she was a beautiful girl inside and out. Natalee received a full scholarship to attend the University of Alabama in the fall of 2005. She had her whole life ahead of her, and right after graduation, she was looking forward to her graduation trip to Aruba.
To celebrate their graduation, Natalee and 124 of her classmates were planning a trip to Aruba. Her parents weren’t sure at first about their daughter leaving the country on a trip that was unsanctioned by the school, but eventually, they changed their minds. They figured since most of the senior class was going, and since there would be chaperons, they decided to give Natalee their blessing to go on the trip. She had always been a good kid and gave them no reason not to trust her, so she was going to Aruba with her family’s blessing.
In Aruba, the legal drinking age is 18, so the students on the trip took advantage of being treated like adults. Many of the kids on the trip started drinking when they first woke up and drank until they passed out at night. According to Natalee’s classmates, she drank during the trip. She even missed breakfast a few times because she was nursing a hangover. Natalee made the most of her trip up until the night before the group was scheduled to leave.
Carlos ‘n Charlie’s
The students’ favorite place to drink in Aruba was Carlos ‘n Charlie’s bar. It was a popular destination for both tourists and locals. The night before the group was scheduled to leave, Natalee and her friends went to the bar, and they met a Dutch national named Joran van der Sloot. He was at the bar with two of his friends, and he took an interest in Natalee. He bought the teen plenty of drinks at the bar that night, and when the bar closed, the two wanted to continue getting to know each other. Before she left with Joran, her friends reminded her that they would be heading home in the morning, so she shouldn’t stay out too late. On May 30, 2005, Natalee was spotted at 1:30 am, getting into a van with Joran and his friends. It was the last time Natalee’s classmates would see her alive.
The next morning, Natalee was supposed to head home. When all of the students arrived in the lobby of their hotel, Natalee wasn’t there. A friend of Natalee’s and a chaperon went to her room to look for clues as to where Natalee could be. They found her luggage packed in the room, and her passport was still there. Everyone was worried and wanted to stay behind to find their friend, but the chaperon told everyone to go ahead, and he would wait for Natalee to return. When the group left, the police and Natalee’s parents were called.
Beth Holloway was with a group of friends having a good time when she got the call about Natalee. She immediately began to panic, and she called her husband and Natalee’s stepfather, Jug Twitty. She also called Natalee’s father, Dave. Beth wanted to get to Aruba as quickly as possible, and Jug made a call to a friend who owned a private plane. He gave the family permission to use the plane, and Beth, Jug, and a friend flew to Aruba immediately. She promised to call Dave as soon as she located their missing daughter. While Beth and her family were flying to Aruba, the police began searching for the teen.
Searching For Natalee
When Beth and company arrived on the island, they met with the police right away. The police told Beth that this type of thing happens all the time. Kids travel alone for the first time; they lose track of time and are often found partying somewhere. Beth knew that this wasn’t the case. Her daughter was very responsible, and would never risk missing her flight. While in Aruba, Beth was in contact with Natalee’s friends, and one of them told her about Joran van der Sloot. One of the girls had a photo of the young man, so Beth took the information to the police.
Visiting the Van der Sloot Home
Beth insisted that the police question Joran. When they arrived at his home, he wasn’t there. His father said that he was going to pick his son up at McDonald’s. Mr. van der Sloot wasn’t cooperative, and Joran wasn’t much help either. He told the police that he and his friends had taken Natalee to Arashi Beach to see the sharks. He said that they dropped her off at the hotel at 2 am. The police checked the security footage at the hotel and found out that Joran had lied. Beth was in a panic and knew that Joran knew more than he was saying.
Brought In For Questioning
The police brought Joran and his two friends, Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, in for questioning. They held the boys for eight days but didn’t have enough evidence to hold them. Beth remained on the island for over a month searching for her daughter and was soon joined by Natalee’s father. The U.S. government took Natalee’s disappearance very seriously, and Secretary of State, Condoleezza, Rice, refused to give up the search. She was in constant contact with the team searching for Natalee.
“Something Bad Happened”
When the boys were brought back in for questioning by police, one of them said that something terrible happened on the beach that night. It was then that the boys started blaming each other for her disappearance. The brothers claimed that they dropped Joran and Natalee off at the beach that night, and left them alone together. Both brothers claimed that they went home after dropping the pair off. After 60 days, the police couldn’t hold the boys any longer, and they were all released from custody. Beth was devastated and had to return to the United States without her daughter.
The police kept getting leads in the case, but they were all dead ends. When the boys were arrested again for charges unrelated to Natalee’s disappearance, they hoped that they could get them to talk. The brothers had no new information, but Joran changed his story. This time, he claimed that he left Natalee alone on the beach to do drugs. Beth knew her daughter and didn’t believe this for a minute. In 2007, his home was searched by police, but by this point, any evidence would have been destroyed.
Joran believed himself to be a celebrity after Natalee’s disappearance, and he kept coming up with far fetched stories of what happened to the missing teen. In 2008, an undercover reporter befriended Joran, and he secretly recorded him. He told the man that Natalee had a violent reaction to something that she had taken, and he panicked and buried her on the beach. Later, he claimed to have changed Natalee’s appearance and sold her into sex slavery in Venezuela. All of his stories were lies, but they gave Beth hope. Later, Joran reached out to Beth, telling her that if she sent him $25,000, he would tell her where her daughter was buried. He was arrested for extortion and wire fraud.
The heat was on for Joran, so he decided to leave Aruba. He headed to Lima, Peru, where people didn’t know him. He met a young woman named Stephany Flores at the casino, and the two spent time together. She was in his hotel room when he beat her to death on the anniversary of Natalee’s disappearance. Joran went on the run. He knew that the hotel room was booked in his name, and there was a dead woman inside who was beaten to death. He also knew that he would be seen on the security footage. He paid a group of men to help him escape Peru.
It wasn’t long before the word was out that Joran was wanted for murder. The police remained close behind, and finally, he was arrested. He stood trial for Stephany’s death, and he was sentenced to 28 years in prison. The Holloways hoped that since he was already in jail, that he would finally tell them the truth about what happened to their daughter. He refused to say anything, leaving Beth and Dave feeling helpless again. The only comfort they had was that Joran was locked up. Stephany’s family was angry that he never paid for his crimes regarding Natalee. If the police had arrested him and put him in jail earlier, Stephany would still be alive.
Dave Holloway wanted some closure and petitioned to have Natalee declared legally dead. Beth didn’t want this, and after going back and forth in court. She was declared dead in January 2012. The Holloway family will never recover after such a devastating loss.
In 2017, Joran wanted to make a statement. The case of teen who went missing in Aruba may finally be solved 12 years later. Sadly, Joran’s account didn’t give the family any new answers. Joran claimed that he had something to do with Natalee’s murder. He claimed that the police botched the case so badly that he had no choice but to lie from the start. Natalee’s family believes that his statement was just another publicity stunt. The conditions in his prison are horrendous, and the authorities think that he made the statement hoping to be transferred.
In 2010, a jawbone was recovered in Aruba. After testing, it was determined that the remains didn’t belong to Natalee. Dave refused to give up on the search, and in 2016, he hired a private investigator. The investigation led to a man named Gabriel, who claimed to have been Joran’s roommate and best friend. He claimed that Joran asked him to help him dig up Natalee’s remains and cremate the bones back in 2010. The man’s claims weren’t believed, and he was stabbed to death a short time later by a woman he was trying to kidnap. All of this information was used for a special on the Oxygen network, which left Beth livid. She sued the network and the producers alleging that these claims were untrue, and she was misled into providing a DNA sample for comparison without being made aware that there were plans for a show.
A Cautionary Tale
Natalee’s family has accepted that their daughter is gone, but she will never be forgotten. Beth says that she will forever pray for her daughter’s return, even though she knows that she won’t see her again. Natalee’s story is tragic, and it should serve as a cautionary tale to women traveling abroad. Traveling can be dangerous for women, and they need to be on alert at all times. Natalee’s friends and family say they will always feel guilty about what happened to Natalee. Beth and Dave feel guilty because they allowed Natalee to take the trip, and her friends feel guilty because they didn’t force her to return to the hotel with them that last night in Aruba. There is just one person who knows what really happened to Natalee, and he isn’t talking. At this point, even if he does talk, nobody is going to believe him. He has lied so many times in the past; he can never be trusted.