Her heart's set on being van der Sloot's guardian angel


People protest against Joran van der Sloot as they hold up an enlarged picture of his police mug shot outside San Pedro prison where his murder trial is held in Lima, Peru, on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)

Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 7:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 7:15 p.m.

Before the beginning of last month, Dr. Mary Monica Hamer was a radiologist at the Lake City Veterans Affairs Hospital, living like most Americans — out of the media glare.

In the past 36 days, though, the number of Google hits for her name has gone off the charts — because she's very publicly taken on the role of “guardian angel” to a man of worldwide infamy: Joran van der Sloot.

The 24-year-old Dutchman has become internationally known as the last person to be seen with Natalee Holloway before the Alabama teenager disappeared from an Aruba beach in 2005.



He then re-entered the spotlight when the beaten, lifeless body of another young woman, Peruvian Stephany Flores, was found in his Peru hotel room — five years to the day after the disappearance of Holloway, who has never been found.

On Wednesday, van der Sloot pleaded guilty to Flores' murder and is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday. He faces 30 years in prison.

But Hamer has been on a mission to defend van der Sloot since at least 2010.

In recent months, the 55-year-old divorcee has been in Newsweek magazine, on NBC's Today show and in numerous international newspapers proclaiming his innocence.

Hamer appears with a young man resembling van der Sloot in a YouTube video called “Haven't Kissed You Yet” but told the Today show in an interview that aired Dec. 21 that her love is not romantic. “The more I know Joran, the more I know there's a beautiful person in there,” she told NBC's Michelle Kosinski.

Hamer was asked if her opinion would change if she found out he had beaten Flores to death.

“I love him unconditionally,” she replied.

Hamer told a Sun reporter that she had an exclusive agreement with CNN's Anderson Cooper that prevented her from speaking with anyone else, including The Gainesville Sun.

She insists in interviews that van der Sloot's arrest in Peru was the result of an international conspiracy and that she is dedicated to his personal development.

She visited him in a Peruvian prison for the third time in December. She then told interviewers that she had contributed $20,000 for his legal defense. She has recorded a music CD to raise money for him. It's called “Rescue.”

But her public proclamations also have made her the target of scorn from strangers all over the globe. In the comments sections of these same media outlets, Hamer is derided variously as “a very sick woman.” One person opined, “I wouldn't want this woman reading my X-rays.”

Heather Frebe, spokeswoman for the Lake City VA Hospital, declined to comment on the sudden fame of Hamer, who state records show received her medical degree from Wayne State University and completed fellowship training in radiology at the University of Virginia Science Center.

“Dr. Hamer is doing this on her own time,” Frebe said. “Her opinions are her own and do not represent those of the VA.”

Hamer's explosion onto the international media landscape illustrates a peculiar new twist in popular culture, said Paul Croce, an American studies professor and observer of pop culture at Stetson University in DeLand.

It used to be that fame was becoming known by people outside one's face-to-face orbit, he said.

Now that becoming famous has been speeded up — with reality show stars known for nothing more than being a desperate housewife — notoriety is becoming something that people experience on a personal level and also put their own two cents into, he said.

“The computer and social media reversed the vector, so fame becomes something more personal, more interactive,” Croce said.

“You still don't see the person personally, but you see their web page, blog and you have a two-dimensional version of a personal relationship.”

Croce said that if Hamer wants to stay on the international stage, she'd better follow up with something else.

If not, “she'll drop like a rock,” Croce predicted.

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