Peru court sentences Van der Sloot to 28 years


Joran van der Sloot sits in the courtroom before his sentencing at San Pedro prison in Lima, Peru, Friday Jan. 13, 2012. (AP Photo)

Published: Friday, January 13, 2012 at 1:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2012 at 1:16 p.m.

LIMA, Peru — A Peruvian court on Friday sentenced Joran van der Sloot to 28 years in prison for murder of a young woman he met at a Lima casino, even as the family of U.S. teenager Natalee Holloway sought to have him prosecuted in the U.S. over her disappearance in 2005.

The decision comes two days after the young Dutchman pleaded guilty to killing Stephany Flores, a 21-year-old business student.

The court also ordered him to pay $75,000 in reparations to the family of the 21-year-old victim. He said he reserves the right to appeal the conviction and sentence, the first ever imposed on him despite prosecutors' repeated efforts to prove he was involved in Holloway's apparent death on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba.

The judges said that due to time already served, van der Sloot's sentence would end in June 2038. But under Peru's penal system, Van der Sloot could become eligible for parole after serving half of the sentence with good behavior, including work and study.

The prosecution had sought a 30-year sentence for first-degree murder and theft.

Van der Sloot's lawyer argued that his client killed the 21-year-old Flores in May 2010 during a fit of rage he blamed on psychological trauma from being hounded as the prime suspect in the Holloway case.

The victim's father, Ricardo Flores, complained after the verdict that Van der Sloot was enjoying favorable conditions in a Lima prison, where he has been living apart from the general population and where foreigners with money can buy superior treatment.

"A jail isn't a five-star hotel," Ricardo Flores told reporters. "Let's hope the authorities take that into account and not just in our case."

"Since the first day we've been complaining about the excessive privileges" that Van der Sloot allegedly enjoyed in jail. He said he would present evidence of this at a news conference on Monday.

Unconfirmed news reports denied by penal authorities say Van der Sloot has also had a television and video gaming console

Van der Sloot long ago confessed to the Flores killing, telling police he became enraged after the business student discovered his connection to the Holloway disappearance on his laptop while they played poker online. Police forensic experts disputed that version, and the victim's family said Van der Sloot killed Flores in order to rob her.

The prosecution maintained Van der Sloot killed Flores with "ferocity" and "cruelty," concealing the crime and fleeing to Chile, where he was caught two days after Flores' decaying body was found.

He took more than $200 in cash plus credit cards from the victim and made his initial getaway in her car, leaving it in a different part of Lima, prosecutors say.

In Birminghan, Alabama, meanwhile, a judge declared Holloway dead during a hearing on Thursday.

"We've been dealing with her death for the last six and a half years," Dave Holloway said after the session. He said the judge's order closes one chapter in the ordeal, but added: "We've still got a long way to go to get justice."

Flores was slain five years to the day after the disappearance of Holloway, an 18-year-old from the wealthy Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook.

Attorneys said both parents spoke of hopes that van der Sloot's next stop will be Birmingham, where he faces federal charges accusing him of extorting $25,000 from Beth Holloway to reveal the location of her daughter's body. Prosecutors said the money was paid, but nothing was disclosed about the missing woman's whereabouts.

Authorities said they believe the tall, garrulous Dutchman used the money to travel to Peru on May 14, 2010.

Natalee Holloway disappeared on May 30, 2005, during a high school graduation trip to Aruba, where van der Sloot grew up. Her body was never found and repeated searches turned up nothing as intense media coverage brought the case worldwide attention.

Investigators have long worked from the assumption that the young woman died in Aruba, where the case was classified as a homicide investigation. That investigation remains open, though there has been no recent activity, said Solicitor General Taco Stein, an official with the prosecutor's office in Aruba.

In Birmingham, Natalee Holloway's parents, who have been divorced since 1993, shook hands and talked briefly before the hearing. During the 10-minute proceeding, they looked on somberly.

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