Dutch suspect back in Peru to face murder charges
LIMA, Peru - June 4, 2010 -- The young Dutchman long suspected in a U.S. teen's Caribbean island disappearance was delivered to Peru on Friday to face charges in the murder of a 21-year-old woman found with her neck broken in his Lima hotel room.
Joran van der Sloot told Chilean police questioners he did not kill Stephany Flores but did say the "he met her and at some point they went to a casino," said Fernando Ovalle, a Chilean police spokesman.
The girl's father, Ricardo Flores, told The Associated Press that video cameras tracked the couple as they walked before dawn Sunday to van der Sloot's hotel from the casino in Lima's upscale Miraflores district where they met playing poker.
He said he doesn't want the death penalty for van der Sloot, only justice. In Peru, murder carries a prison sentence of up to 35 years.
"I haven't slept since Monday," a devastated Flores, his eyelids heavy and speech slurred, said in an interview at his Lima home. "I'm waiting for him to step foot on Peruvian soil." Then, he said, he'd take a sleeping pill or simply collapse from exhaustion.
Flores, a former race car driver and circus promoter, spoke as the 22-year-old Dutchman was being flown handcuffed to the border with Peru, where the Chileans handed him over to Peruvian authorities.
They put a bulletproof vest on van der Sloot, who looked frightened, and drove him to a police post in Tacna near the border.
Col. Manuel Malaver, chief of Interpol in Peru, said that after a medical check van der Sloot would be transported to Lima, where a preliminary arrest warrant was issued for him Thursday.
The suspect was in the same clothes in which he was arrested the previous day in a taxi headed from Santiago toward Vina del Mar on Chile's coast: a black-hooded sweat shirt and khaki pants.
He has not spoken or even acknowledged reporters who have called questions to him.
Van der Sloot remains the prime suspect in the May, 30, 2005 disappearance - five years to the day of Flores' murder - of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway on the Dutch island of Aruba.
Long a fixture on TV true-crime shows, he now faces criminal charges in the United States of trying to extort $250,000 from Holloway's family in exchange for revealing the location of Holloway's body and describing the circumstances of her death.
U.S. prosecutors charged van der Sloot with the crime on Thursday, saying $15,000 had been transferred to a Netherlands bank account in his name.
In the Netherlands on Friday, Dutch prosecutors acting at the request of U.S. authorities raided two homes hunting for evidence in the case, seizing computers, cell phones and data-storage devices.
Stephany Flores, a business student with a sunny disposition, was found dead of a broken neck late Tuesday in the Lima hotel room where van der Sloot had been staying since May 14.
She was fully clothed, with multiple bruises and scratches on her body but there were no signs she had been sexually assaulted, the chief of Peru's criminal police, Gen. Cesar Guardia, told the AP.
A tennis racket was found in the room "that could have been the murder weapon but that's so far not been proven. It's just a supposition," said Dr. Cesar Tejada, deputy Lima medical examiner.
"My daughter resisted," Flores told the AP in a marble-floored interior porch. "There was violence, resistance to being raped - and there's where she was murdered."
Flores said police wouldn't let him see his daughter's battered body. His oldest son, 35, identified her at the morgue and she had a closed-casket wake.
His wife, Maria Elena Ramirez, sat staring into oblivion accompanied by friends and family at a table in the back yard. Stephany was the oldest of their three children and only daughter.
Peruvian police say they have video of van der Sloot and Flores together in the casino and on the street and that witnesses saw the two enter the Dutchman's hotel room.
Flores, 48, buried his daughter Thursday but said he expected her to be exhumed so that DNA tests can be performed.
"Under the fingernails of my daughter there are traces, evidence, that's why they didn't permit her cremation," he said.
Dr. Tejada confirmed that valuable evidence could be found under the girl's fingernails.
Flores said he hopes his daughter's death will help investigators solve not just the Holloway case but others of missing girls in which van der Sloot might be responsible.
Holloway was an 18-year-old who was celebrating her high school graduation on Aruba when she disappeared. Van der Sloot told investigators he left her on a beach, drunk. That's the last anyone saw of her. Van der Sloot was twice arrested in her disappearance - and twice released for insufficient evidence.
The girl's mother, Beth Holloway of Mountain Brook, Ala, could not be reached for comment. Her uncle, Paul Reynolds, told NBC's "Today" show Friday that the family hopes to see van der Sloot put behind bars and the Aruba case reopened. He called the alleged extortion attempt "a despicable act."
Ricardo Flores said his daughter had been playing poker at the Atlantic City casino when she met van der Sloot and had dropped some girlfriends off at 2:30 a.m. Sunday and returned to the casino.
Police say she was killed between 5 a.m., when she and van der Sloot were entering his room by a hotel employee, and 8:45 a.m., when two people saw van der Sloot leave.
Flores, sitting slough-shouldered and dejected, lamented his daughter's having fallen for the "Machiavellian" van der Sloot.
"She was absolutely innocent. A big baby. Good and without any malice, you understand. She was still a girl. She was 21 years old but was still a girl. That is, a girl not worldly, who didn't know the other side of life, the hard side."
A New York lawyer for van der Sloot, Joseph Tacopina, had no immediate comment on his client's predicament. He said he was not yet able to say whether a Peruvian lawyer had been obtained for the young man.
Flores said he understood van der Sloot, one of three brothers whose father Aruba judge father died in February, has been traveling the world playing poker and taking advantage of young women.
Aruba's attorney general, Taco Stein, told the AP that island authorities had not been keeping track of the movements of van der Sloot, who had lately been living mostly in the Netherlands.
He said he didn't know how the young man was supporting himself.
"It's possible that when he lived in Holland that he got welfare, or maybe he had a job. He's an ardent poker player and that means every now and again he wins too. Maybe he supports himself with that. I really have no idea," Stein said.
The Holloway case has followed many twists and turns.
Two years ago, a Dutch television crime reporter captured hidden-camera footage of van der Sloot saying he was with Holloway when she collapsed on a beach from being drunk.
He said he believed she was dead and asked a friend to dump her body in the sea. Judges subsequently refused to arrest van der Sloot on the basis of the tape.
The journalist, Peter de Vries, reported later in 2008 that he had documented van der Sloot recruiting Thai women in Bangkok for sex work in the Netherlands.
Associated Press writers Eva Vergara in Santiago, Chile, Carla Salazar in Lima, Karel Navarro in Tacna, Peru, and Michael Melia in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.
aruba, peru, natalee holloway, joran van der sloot, national/world
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