The prime suspect in Natalee Holloway’s 2005 disappearance is slated to be extradited to the United States, a potential step towards justice in the high-interest case that has gone unsolved for years.
In a case that drew international headlines, the 18-year-old American student disappeared on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. Her body was never found.
Dutch citizen Joran van der Sloot will face trial for alleged extortion and wire fraud, charges that stem from the Holloway case, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Here is what to know about the case that has spanned decades and sparked true-crime productions including a television mini series.
Who is Natalee Holloway? What happened to her?
Holloway, who lived in suburban Birmingham, Alabama, was last seen during a high school graduation trip to Aruba with classmates.
She vanished after a night with friends at a nightclub, leaving a mystery that sparked years of news coverage and countless true-crime shows and podcasts. She was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot, then 18 years old, outside a restaurant and nightclub in Oranjestad.
Holloway was set to fly home from the Caribbean island on May 30, 2005, but failed to appear for her flight.
Authorities said she was in a car with van der Sloot and two other men − Deepak Kalpoe and Satish Kalpoe, according to the FBI.
2012:Missing teenager Natalee Holloway declared dead
Who is Joran van der Sloot?
The son of a judge, van der Sloot was never charged in her death. He is serving a 28-year sentence for killing a Peruvian business student, Stephany Flores, in his hotel room in 2010 after meeting her in a casino.
Investigators suggested that he was angry that the 21-year-old Flores had apparently seen information on his computer about the Holloway case. He also stole her money and credit cards and briefly fled the country.
Van der Sloot has been arrested twice in Aruba, but never charged, in connection the disappearance of Holloway, USA TODAY previously reported.
Why is van der Sloot being extradited to the US?
The suspect’s extradition to the U.S. stems from an alleged attempt to profit from his connection to the Holloway case. A grand jury in Alabama in 2010 indicted van der Sloot on wire fraud and extortion charges, accusing him of trying to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Holloways.
Prosecutors in the U.S. allege van der Sloot accepted $25,000 in cash from Holloway’s family in exchange for a promise to lead them to her body in early 2010, just before he went to Peru.
An FBI agent wrote in an affidavit that van der Sloot reached out to Holloway’s mother, Beth, and wanted to be paid $25,000 to disclose the location and then another $225,000 when the remains were recovered. During a recorded sting operation, van der Sloot pointed to a house where he said Holloway was buried but in later emails admitted to lying about the location, the agent said.
Previously:Natalee Holloway’s dad having human remains found in Aruba DNA tested
Peru’s Minister of Justice Daniel Maurate said in a statement Wednesday the government decided to “accept the request” from U.S. authorities “for the temporary transfer” of van der Sloot to be prosecuted on extortion and fraud charges. In Peru, all extraditions must be approved by the president.
Case sparked vast media coverage, true-crime productions including ‘The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway’
In the 2017 series “The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway,” which followed Holloway’s father and a private investigator as they chased a lead in the case, John Christopher Ludwick claimed van der Sloot paid him $1,500 to dig up Holloway’s remains and cremate them. He was not charged in the case.
“The idea was to crush everything to the point where it wasn’t recognizable as her bones or skull or anything like that,” Ludwick said on the show.
From 2018:Oxygen Media defends series about Natalee Holloway amid mother’s lawsuit
Ludwick, of Port Charlotte, Florida, a community northwest of Fort Myers, was stabbed to death at age 32 in early 2018 after he attempted to kidnap a woman from her vehicle in nearby North Port, police said. Ludwick was roommates with the woman at one point and wanted a romantic relationship with her, but she didn’t, North Port police reported.
Contributing: Associated Press; Mary Bowman, USA TODAY; Stan Chambers WTSP-TV/Gannett
Natalie Neysa Alund covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.