By Holly Yan, Devon M. Sayers and Aaron Cooper, CNN
Birmingham, Alabama (CNN) — Almost two decades after Natalee Holloway vanished in Aruba, the man long suspected in her death has confessed to killing the Alabama teen in grisly detail, court documents reveal.
But it remains unclear whether Joran van der Sloot, 36, will ever serve time for bludgeoning Holloway to death on the Caribbean island. While Aruba’s statute of limitations for homicide may have passed, the public prosecutor’s office there has not closed the door on possible legal action.
Van der Sloot’s confession was publicized shortly after he pleaded guilty in an Alabama federal court Wednesday to extorting and defrauding Holloway’s family.
He was accused of trying to sell information about the location of Holloway’s remains to her mother, Beth Holloway, in exchange for $250,000.
The plea deal appeared to benefit both van der Sloot and the Holloway family. Van der Sloot was sentenced to 20 years for the financial crimes, which will run simultaneously with his ongoing prison sentence in Peru – where he was convicted of killing another woman and trafficking cocaine.
And while the US does not have jurisdiction over Holloway’s homicide case in Aruba, her parents now have certainty as to who killed their daughter.
“It’s over. Joran van der Sloot is no longer the suspect in my daughter’s murder. He is the killer,” Beth Holloway said Wednesday.
“After 18 years, Natalee’s case is solved,” she said. “He gave a proffer in which he finally confessed to killing Natalee.”
In a proffer, a defendant offers information they know about a crime, often as part of a plea deal.
Van der Sloot admitted to killing the teen with a cinder block on an Aruban beach after she rejected his sexual advances, according to a transcript of an interview with his attorney.
Van der Sloot said Holloway kneed him in the crotch after he tried “feeling her up,” and he responded by kicking her in the face and bludgeoning her with the cinder block.
He then decided to “push her off” into the ocean, according to the interview transcript.
Holloway’s body has never been found. In 2012, a judge signed an order declaring her legally dead.
Five years after Holloway’s death, van der Sloot killed a Peruvian woman, 21-year-old Stephany Flores, in 2010.
Van der Sloot has admitted to killing Flores and was sentenced to 28 years in prison for her death.
The young women’s deaths prompted US federal Judge Anna Manasco to sentence van der Sloot to 20 years for the extortion and wire fraud charges.
“I have considered your confession to the brutal murder of Natalee Holloway,” Manasco said Wednesday.
“You have brutally murdered, in separate incidents years apart, two beautiful women who refused your sexual advances.”
Holloway’s homicide investigation isn’t over
Van der Sloot was arrested multiple times in connection with Holloway’s death between 2005 and 2007. But he was released by Aruban authorities, who cited a lack of direct evidence.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for the Aruba Public Prosecutor’s Office did not rule out the possibility that van der Sloot could face new legal action in Aruba after he confessed to killing Holloway.
“The Public Prosecutor’s Office will reiterate once more that the Holloway case remains an open investigation in Aruba,” spokesperson Ann Angela told CNN in an email.
In light of van der Sloot’s confession, Aruban authorities “have requested the U.S. Department of Justice for official court documents and transcripts and all documents related to the investigation, which we will review before deciding on the procedural steps to be taken.”
In Aruba, the statute of limitations for homicide has been 12 years. When asked whether or why the statute of limitations might not apply to van der Sloot, the spokesperson said the question “cannot be answered unequivocally.”
“It depends on several factors within the investigation,” Angela said Thursday. “Bear in mind also that we don’t know yet what is in the official court documents and documents related to the investigation. Therefore there is no simple yes or no at this moment.”
But Van der Sloot is scheduled to spend the next two decades behind bars in Peru.
In addition to his 28-year prison sentence for murdering Flores, van der Sloot was also convicted in 2021 of trafficking cocaine into his Peruvian prison. He was sentenced to an additional 18 years in Peru, according to a sentencing memorandum.
“Because Peruvian law prohibits prison sentences from exceeding a total of 35 years (unless given a life sentence), the Defendant is currently scheduled for release from prison in Peru on or about June 10, 2045 (35 years after his original arrest in Peru),” the court document states.
But Peruvian officials allowed his temporary release to the US in June to face the extortion and wire fraud charges.
Van der Sloot was expected to return to Peru to finish his murder sentence in the Flores case before returning to the US to serve time for the federal charges.
But Wednesday’s plea agreement says his 20-year US federal sentence will be served concurrently with his sentence in Peru. In other words, it appears unlikely van der Sloot will return to the US to serve prison time.
18 years of mystery and misery
Holloway was visiting Aruba on a high school graduation trip when she vanished in 2005.
The 18-year-old was last seen leaving a nightclub with van der Sloot and two other men, brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe.
The three men were arrested in 2005 but were released due to insufficient evidence.
They were rearrested and charged in 2007 for “involvement in the voluntary manslaughter of Natalee Holloway or causing serious bodily harm to Natalee Holloway, resulting in her death,” Aruban prosecutors said at the time.
But a few weeks later, an Aruban judge ordered van der Sloot’s release, citing a lack of direct evidence that Holloway died from a violent crime or that van der Sloot was involved in such a crime. The Kalpoe brothers were also released.
Why van der Sloot was charged in the US
While US officials don’t have jurisdiction over the criminal investigation in Aruba, a federal grand jury in Alabama indicted van der Sloot for an alleged plot to sell information about Holloway’s remains to her family.
According to the indictment, van der Sloot’s scheme took place between March and May 2010.
He was indicted in June 2010 on charges of extortion and wire fraud.
In the weeks between his extortion and indictment, van der Sloot killed Flores on May 30, 2010, in his hotel room in Peru.
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CNN’s Julian Cummings, Jean Casarez, Kara Nelson and Michelle Watson contributed to this report.