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Natalee Holloway: Lost in Paradise

Aired December 11, 2010 - 22:00   ET



MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In an instant, she was gone. Vanished, without a trace. Lost in paradise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We immediately knew something was wrong.

SAVIDGE: The Natalee Holloway mystery, twists, turns, one dead end after another.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'd wake up each morning and we hope and pray somebody will solve the case.

SAVIDGE: After five long, agonizing years, a mother still desperate for the answer. What happened to Natalee?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Joran, I won't do anything until I get some information about Natalee.

SAVIDGE (on camera): She could have been anyone's daughter, with a smile that would melt your heart. A high school honor student with dreams of going to med school, celebrating graduation with the trip of a young lifetime, here in Aruba, a tropical paradise that likes to call itself one happy island. It was anything but.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: American teen on a Caribbean vacation disappeared.

LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: 18-year-old Natalee Holloway, a straight "A" student --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Natalee Holloway has been missing since Monday --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This little girl, Natalee Holloway went away --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Missing Alabama teenager who hasn't been seen since Monday.


SAVIDGE: Before all of this, before the mystery, the allegations, the tears, before she vanished, Natalee Holloway was simply a teenager, an 18-year-old growing up in a quiet suburb. She was happy and certainly her mother's daughter.

BETH HOLLOWAY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S MOTHER: There wasn't anything that Natalee couldn't come to me and tell me or ask me. Nothing.

NATALEE HOLLOWAY, VICTIM: Just sitting in the back, cruising over to my place.

SAVIDGE: Her mother divorced her father when Natalee was a little girl. When Beth remarried, she moved the family to Mountain Brook, Alabama, a wealthy suburb of Birmingham, a town that knew few strangers.

MAYOR TERRY ODEN, MOUNTAIN BROOK, ALABAMA: So everybody, if you don't know everybody, you know somebody that knows somebody.

SAVIDGE: Growing up, Natalee dedicated herself to pursuing her real passion -- dance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She began in the eighth grade really becoming focused on getting on a dance team.

SAVIDGE: But her mother, ever concerned, worried only the most popular girls made the team. As a new girl, there was a risk Natalee wouldn't make it. But she was determined. And she made it. But dance wasn't the only outlet for her ambition.

BEAU BARRON, FRIEND: She had a packed schedule and she was in tons of clubs.

SAVIDGE: Earning straight As, she made the National Honor Society, got elected to student council and volunteered with a Community Ministry for Girls. Ultimately, she hoped to make the world a better place.

MARCIA TWITTY, STEP-AUNT: Natalee has this extreme that she will become a doctor, lawyer, whichever one she picks, she will do it and she'll be good at it because she works very, very hard at it.

SAVIDGE: She may have been driven. But Natalee's friends say she also knew how to have a good time.

BARRON: She was a little bit more outgoing than everybody else. She was always the fun one to be around. She was always laughing and having a good time. She was always making jokes and stuff. She will always make you laugh.

SAVIDGE: For all the joking around, Natalee was always on time, a trait that would later trigger warning bells.

MARCIA TWITTY: Natalee was always where she needs to be, always on time.

SAVIDGE: At high school graduation, Natalee seemed in complete control of her destiny. Earning a full scholarship, she was ready to take life's next big step at the University of Alabama. MARCIA TWITTY: She could do law school, she could do premed. It was just a really good fit for her. She's already -- she's really looking forward to go in. The school has everything Natalee wants.

SAVIDGE: But before heading off to college, Natalee and 124 of her classmates would dive into one last adventure together.

A trip to Aruba, a tradition Mountain Brook seniors, spent the entire year looking forward to.

BARRON: Everyone was going on that trip. All of our good friends and stuff like that. Everybody was just so excited. We couldn't wait to get down there.

SAVIDGE: Natalee's dad, however, was nervous. There were only seven chaperones. And in Aruba, the legal drinking age was 18. But Natalee had always been responsible, and her mother and stepfather thought she had earned it.

JUG TWITTY, FORMER STEPFATHER: This was her reward for working so hard and getting a scholarship to Alabama.

SAVIDGE: A reward that promised a tropical paradise, an island full of fun, adventure and partying, lots of partying, with old friends, and new ones. Like Joran Van Der Sloot, a charming and outgoing young man who called Aruba his home.

Jean Casarez is a correspondent with HLN's "In Session".

JEAN CASAREZ, CORRESPONDENT, "IN SESSION": Joran Van Der Sloot was a young man that came from a very good family, went to a very prestigious school in Aruba.

SAVIDGE: Van Der Sloot seemed to have everything going for him. But he also had a reputation as a party boy with a temper.

Jossy Mansur is the managing editor of the Aruban newspaper, Diario.

(on camera) What do we know about Joran? I mean, on the surface, he was an honor student. He seemed to be a good kid, as you would say, raised by good family. What do we know really about him?

JOSSY MANSUR, MANAGING EDITOR, DIARIO: We know that he had a very serious problem with his anger, with the rage that was within him once he lost control of himself.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Van Der Sloot's former attorney Joseph disputes that assertion saying, "Joran didn't have a documented anger problem," insisting that Van Der Sloot had a really good reputation.

(on camera) Natalee spent the night partying with her friends here at this once popular night spot, "Carlos & Charlie's." She was last seen around 1:00 in the morning getting into a car with Joran Van Der Sloot and two of his friends. She never returned to her hotel.

Coming up, an agonizing mystery in the Caribbean, and a mother's desperate pleas for help.


BETH HOLLOWAY: Natalee, you can reach me on your cell phone. I have it and it's set up for international use now. And I will stay here until I find you.




DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon with a look at your top stories. U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke is in critical condition tonight in a Washington hospital following surgery for a tear in his aorta. Holbrooke is the Obama administration special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was hospitalized yesterday after becoming ill during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Secretary Clinton visited Holbrooke earlier today. His family is also by his side.

The eldest son of Bernie Madoff apparently killed himself today in his New York apartment. Mark Madoff's father-in-law found his body after the family received e-mails from him. Mark Madoff and his younger brother, Andrew, worked in his father's firms. They were the ones who called authorities when Bernie Madoff told them about the Ponzi scheme that sent him to prison.

In North Carolina, more than 1200 people gathered to remember Elizabeth Edwards. The estranged wife of former senator and Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards died Tuesday after a six- year battle with cancer. She was 61 years old. Her daughter, Cate, was among those who eulogized Mrs. Edwards.


CATE EDWARDS, DAUGHTER OF ELIZABETH EDWARDS: Every single thing she did, she did to the fullest possible extent. I can think of 100 examples and I'm sure everyone here can, too. But the best example is her devotion to us, her children. She would do anything in the world to protect all of us. No matter what the personal cost was to her, and I know that there are so many sacrifices that she made for us that we'll never know about.


LEMON: Coming up, its name came to symbolize all that can go wrong in public housing. We're talking about Cabrini-Green. The last of its tenants are now out at the bottom of the hour.

Make sure you join me live here on CNN for an in-depth report on the nation's struggles with how to deal with housing for the poor. One of the biggest housing projects in the country. The last family has moved out of Chicago. Cabrini-Green.

Those are your headline this hour. PARADISE LOST: THE NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S STORY continues in a moment.



SAVIDGE (voice-over): Aruba, a tropical paradise -- sun, sand and fun.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We went out on the beach every day, hung out together.

SAVIDGE: In 2005, this is where 18-year-old Natalee Holloway and more than 100 of her fellow graduates went for one last hoorah.

FRANCES ELLEN BYRD, FRIEND: Our grade is really close and everyone hung out together the entire time.

SAVIDGE: But on the morning of May 30th, the day the group was supposed to leave the island --

BYRD: We immediately knew something was wrong because she was the first one to wake up.

SAVIDGE: The students woke up to find Natalee's packed bags, her passport and money all in her room, but no Natalee.

BYRD: We went straight to the chaperones.

NANCY GRACE, HOST, HLN's "NANCY GRACE": With us tonight, Natalee's mother, Beth Twitty, is with us, her stepdad, Jug Twitty -- * SAVIDGE: Natalee's parents shared their ordeal with HLN'S "Nancy Grace."

BETH HOLLOWAY: We received the phone call that Natalee had not shown up for the group in time that they were departing for the airport.


BETH HOLLOWAY: I knew immediately Natalee would never be late for anything. Never.

SAVIDGE: They left immediately for Aruba to search for their daughter.

BETH HOLLOWAY: The first thing that I wanted to do with Eric Williams, the DEA, was to establish Natalee's character so they would see that this is not someone who just decided not to show up.

SAVIDGE: At the time, however, locals were not overly concerned with Natalee's disappearance. Julie Renfro is editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Aruba Today."

JULIE RENFRO, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "ARUBA TODAY": She was an adult. So there really wasn't a very -- SAVIDGE: There wasn't a sense of alarm?

RENFRO: No, no. Actually, it happens all the time. People come here on vacation, they have fun. They forget to go home.

SAVIDGE (on camera): In the days after Natalee Holloway disappeared, there was no shortage of people looking for her. Hundreds of tourists gave up a day at the beach to join the search. At one point, thousands of the island's civil servants were given the day off to look. Even a contingent of Dutch marines was brought in to aid the effort.

(voice-over) Within 24 hours of arriving in Aruba, Natalee's parents learned Natalee was last seen in the company of three young men. One of them, 17-year-old Joran Van Der Sloot. Her parents found his address and sprung into action.

JUG TWITTY: We showed up at his house. First he looked at the picture -- and I said, don't say you don't know her because we have eyewitnesses who saw you got in this car with her. And then he goes, yes, I know who she is. He walks over to us and starts talking. And he says he danced with her at "Carlos N' Charlie's," but after we talk a little bit we are asking where she is, "I don't know. I dropped her off."

SAVIDGE: But it wouldn't be until 11 days after that visit that Aruban authorities would detain Joran and his two friends. 21-year- old Deepak Kalpoe and his 18-year-old Satish as suspects.

NADIRA RAMIREZ-KALPOE, MOTHER: I asked him, Satish, are you sure you guys didn't do anything? No, mamma, they don't even talk a word with her. Me and my brother gave them a lift and they came home. They don't know anything else about that.

SAVIDGE: Initially, all three suspects told police they dropped Natalee off at her hotel. But hotel surveillance video quickly proved otherwise.

(on camera) After admitting he lied to police about having dropped Natalee off here at her hotel, 17-year-old Joran Van Der Sloot became their main suspect.

Tell us about Joran.

RENFRO: He was just known to be a big kid at school. He had a lot of girlfriends. He was a good soccer player. He spoke on behalf of Aruba for the United Nations. He was an honor student, a great athlete.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): And also the son of a prominent Aruban attorney.

MANSUR: Both the police and the other authorities were very uncomfortable with the case.

Jossy Mansur is editor for the Aruban newspaper, Diario. MANSUR: Suddenly, they were on one side and he was on the other because they were investigating his son.

SAVIDGE: We're about a mile away from the hotel where Natalee Holloway had been staying. And it was on this stretch of beach that Joran Van Der Sloot says that he left Natalee early in the morning, alone.

Joran and the Kalpoe brothers spent their summer in and out of jail. Under interrogation, they changed their story dozens of time. But it didn't get authorities any closer to the truth.

MANSUR: There were many things that they didn't do, small details, big details that they told, they closed their attention to.

SAVIDGE (on camera): And this lack of willingness to push hard, you think, is because they were familiar with Joran's father?

MANSUR: I think so, I'm convinced of that.

SAVIDGE: Do you think he used his influence to protect his son?

MANSUR: Sure, because that is his son. He would have gone to any lengths to try to save him. He knew very well what happened.

SAVIDGE: Without more information, a judge released Joran and the Kalpoe brothers on September 3rd, 2005.

BETH HOLLOWAY: The suspects who took my daughter from "Carlos n' Charlie's" on the last night of her senior trip, who are the last to be seen with her alive, are now free.

SAVIDGE: Devastated, Beth left the island days later. Joran headed to college in the Netherlands, and the case went cold.

Then, years later, a murder in Peru revives the Natalee Holloway case. And her mother confronts the man she believes killed her daughter.

BETH HOLLOWAY: Tell me what happened. And let me take her home.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 92 degrees, no rain.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): It's November 2007, nearly two years gone, nearly two years since Natalee disappeared here in Aruba. And nearly two years of anguish for a family still wondering what happened to her. Suddenly a break in the case. Satish and Deepak Kalpoe and their friend, Joran Van Der Sloot, are arrested yet again.

Jossy Mansur is managing editor of the Aruban newspaper, Diario. MANSUR: None of them were telling the truth. All three of them know exactly what happened to Natalee, I'm sure of that. Joran knows because he was involved. And the Kalpoe brothers know because he told them. I mean, they were buddies.

SAVIDGE: Van Der Sloot's former attorney Joe Tacopina says Mansur's statement is made out of ignorance, that is not supported by any evidence, whatsoever.

The three young men are believed to be the last to have seen Natalee. And Natalee's parents are hopeful. But after weeks of interrogation, the young men are free once again.

Jean Casarez has followed Van Der Sloot's case extensively for HLN's "In Session".

CASAREZ: They are waiting for evidence. They need evidence. And they're really looking for forensic evidence because they want something to corroborate the witness statements. And when we think about statements, we think about Joran Van Der Sloot.

SAVIDGE: Tom Fuentes headed the FBI's International Task Force early in the investigation.

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASST. DIRECTOR: He and his friends are arrested and released several times by the Arubans over the course of the next couple of years. At one point, the Dutch authorities also weigh in, but then drop it and release them and the same story comes out that there's a lack of evidence that he did anything to her.

SAVIDGE: Then, in January 2008, Joran tells someone Natalee was dumped at sea. He later denies that story and tells a reporter he sold Natalee to human traffickers for $10,000.

FUENTES: At the time, he's 17 years old. Is he in contact with sex slave traders, let's say, to be involved in that level of organized crime? We don't know.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Again, more denials and a new story. Over the years, Joran Van Der Sloot has changed his story many times about what happened to Natalee Holloway or where her body may be. For instance, he told the Dutch television station he dumped her body in this swamp, but in the end, it turned out to be just more talk.

(voice-over) Van Der Sloot, a young man with a privileged background continues to baffle investigators.

FUENTES: Joran felt throughout that he was kind of untouchable, that they weren't really going to get him. His father was coaching him how to respond and what to say.

SAVIDGE: Joran's father, Paulus, who's a prominent lawyer, on the fast track to becoming a judge, but just last year, he unexpectedly died of a heart attack, leaving Joran on his own.

CASAREZ: His father appeared to be his adviser. Many people believe his father went to his grave knowing exactly what happened to Natalee Holloway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you running?

SAVIDGE: Authorities seemed to be no closer to solving the mystery. Then, earlier this year, a stunning twist. 21-year-old Stephany Flores is found dead in a Lima, Peru, hotel room. Video surveillance shows a man outside the room where her body was found. Joran Van Der Sloot. Police announce he's their prime suspect.

CASAREZ: The most striking thing to me when I think about Natalee Holloway and Stephany Flores, both of them together, they had one common denominator, it was Joran Van Der Sloot. Stephany Flores was with Joran Van Der Sloot five years to the day that Natalee Holloway was last seen. And that was the last time Stephany Flores is seen.

SAVIDGE: Peruvian police track down Van Der Sloot who fled to Chile the day after the murder.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why you killed her?

SAVIDGE: Under interrogation in Peru, Joran told investigators that he knows the location of Natalee's body. But wouldn't say what happened to her that night. Beth Holloway hears the news and immediately heads to Peru. Van Der Sloot had been e-mailing her in March. The FBI monitored the entire exchange.

FUENTES: His original message for $250,000, I'll tell you what happened to her. And because he's playing on their emotions and saying, I'll give you this if you give me money, basically an extortion.

SAVIDGE: Finally after five long years, Beth Holloway would sit face to face with the man she believes knows what happened to her daughter.

BETH HOLLOWAY: It's too late for Natalee, it's too late for Stephany, it's too late for me, but it's not too late for you, Joran. You can make some choices here, Joran, and you can make the right decision. If it was an accident, tell me. If you don't, I don't know.

JORAN VAN DER SLOOT, SUSPECT: I really have been thinking a lot and just giving me some time to think. I will write you. I owe you at least that. I mean, I've made so many bad decisions and all for the wrong reasons. I hope that you know that I'm very addicted to -- especially to gambling. That's why I've told so many lies.

SAVIDGE: Nothing would come out of that meeting.

Then just last month, a new development promises answers. A human jawbone washes up on the beach in Aruba. But dental records dash the family's hopes again.

TACO STEIN, ARUBAN SOLICITOR GENERAL: Based on the bone that was presented and on the dental records, investigations were done. We can exclude that the bone might have belonged to Natalee Holloway.

SAVIDGE: Yet another dead end. Five years after the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, still no answers. And a family is left to agonize over what happened to their daughter.