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Natalee Holloway's family, friends revisit her disappearance in Joran van der Sloot doc

(Wikicommons, Peacock)
Joran van der Sloot's crimes and pathological lies are the focus of a new Peacock documentary.(Wikicommons, Peacock)
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Joran van der Sloot, his crimes and web of lies, are the subject of a new documentary.

Pathological: The Lies of Joran van der Sloot, a Peacock original, revisits the 2005 disappearance of 18-year-old American teen Natalee Holloway while on a graduation trip to Aruba, a real-life horror story that gripped the nation. Her body was never found, and the Netherlands-born, Aruba-raised van der Sloot’s tale of what happened that night changed over and over, but he was never charged in the case.

Then, five years to the day after Natalee’s disappearance, van der Sloot murdered Stephany Flores Ramírez in his Lima, Peru, hotel room.

Van der Sloot, 36, is serving 35 years in a Peruvian prison for Ramírez’s 2010 death, as well as a prison drug trafficking conviction, with an expected release in 2045. In October, the family of Natalee — who was legally declared dead in 2012, though her remains have never been recovered — found some resolution after van der Sloot admitted to killing her on an Aruban beach.

Poster with two images of Natalee Holloway, reading at top in red block letters: Missing
Poster of missing Alabama high school student Natalee Holloway, who disappeared on a graduation trip in Aruba in 2005. (Associated Press)

Van der Sloot’s confession was part of his plea deal in his U.S. federal extortion case, stemming from a scheme to get $250,000 from Natalee’s mother, Beth Holloway, in exchange for telling her where Natalee’s body was buried. He was sentenced to 20 years in U.S. prison with the sentence running concurrently with the one he’s serving in Peru. (Natalee’s case remains open in Aruba, but the statute of limitations for murder there is 12 years.)

What’s new?

The 90-minute true crime doc lays out a detailed timeline of Natalee’s disappearance — a case drawing news coverage that hadn’t been seen since O.J. Simpson’s, a decade earlier — woven into Ramírez’s murder exactly and eerily five years later.

Stephany Flores Ramírez.
Van der Sloot murdered Stephany Flores Ramírez in Peru exactly five years after Holloway disappeared. (Peacock)

It shows how van der Sloot’s story shifted and changed as he played mind games with the media, investigators, Natalee’s family and others, often in bids for money. He tried to sell out others along the way, ranging from his friends (Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, who were out with him the night Natalee disappeared) to his late father (Paul van der Sloot, a justice official in Aruba, who he claimed helped him hide Natalee’s body before retracting that story).

The documentary, directed by Christopher Cassel, looks at how van der Sloot’s pattern of violence and pathological lies started years earlier. It takes viewers through the recent U.S. embezzlement case, including his October confession to Natalee’s death and her family’s reaction to it. It also gives insight into his life behind bars. While Natalee and Ramírez will never have the chance to have families, van der Sloot welcomed a daughter with his then wife in 2014. In 2020, he manipulated a girlfriend into smuggling cocaine and marijuana into prison for him to traffic, but they were caught and his sentence was extended.

Who’s in it?

The doc features new interviews with parties directly inside the double tragedy, including Natalee’s brother, Matthew Holloway, who emotionally recalled watching his father “physically ripping open trash bags” in a landfill in search of the missing Alabama teen in 2005. He talked about facing van der Sloot in court in October, when the convicted murderer confessed to smashing Natalee’s head with a cinder block and throwing her body in the water when she resisted his sexual advances. Amid all van der Sloot’s lies, he admits, “I know there’s more to the story — and there always will be.”

Matthew Holloway (Peacock)
Natalee's brother, Matthew Holloway, relives his family's nightmare. (Peacock)

Ramírez’s father, Ricardo Flores, discussed her murder, which he said was so brutal that he was advised against seeing her body. He said van der Sloot strangled and beat his daughter after she discovered his connection to Natalee’s disappearance and confronted him.

Others involved in the various cases also provided insight. Beth’s attorney John Q. Kelly, who helped hook van der Sloot on the extortion charges, detailed how that came together. However, Kelly also shared his guilt that the plan put $25,000 into van der Sloot’s pocket, which van der Sloot used to travel to Peru, where he murdered Ramírez. Retired Peruvian National Police Captain Juan Callan talked about getting van der Sloot’s confession to Ramírez’s murder. Natalee’s friends talk about that fateful Aruba trip and seeing her for the last time — laughing, singing and seeming “really happy” in van der Sloot’s car after they all left a bar and were supposed to be headed back to the hotel.

Matthew and Natalee Holloway.
Matthew and Natalee Holloway. (Peacock)

Steph Watts, one of the journalists featured, talked about flying to Thailand in 2008 to secure an interview with van der Sloot for Greta Van Susteren on Fox News. Immediately after the sit-down, for which van der Sloot was paid, he messaged Van Susteren to say he made up everything he told her.

We also hear from van der Sloot’s girlfriend Eva Pacohuanaco, who met him while he was incarcerated and married to someone else. Pacohuanaco talked about “romantic” van der Sloot wooing her with letters filled with “stars and hearts” and held up a keychain with their entwined names on it.

Pacohuanaco admitted it would have been “better not to have met” van der Sloot — as she faces repercussions for smuggling cocaine into prison for him. However, it’s hard to believe she means it. Pacohuanaco remains on a list, along with two other women, approved for conjugal visits with van der Sloot, the New York Post reports.

How do I watch it?

Pathological: The Lies of Joran van der Sloot premieres Feb. 27 on Peacock.