Joran van der Sloot apprehended in Chile

Miami HeraldJune 3, 2010 

MIAMI — Joran van der Sloot, who is wanted for questioning in the death of a 21-year-old woman in Peru, was detained Thursday in Chile while trying to make his way to the tourist resort of Vina del Mar, the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio reported.

Citing the Chilean police, the newspaper said van der Sloot was in a taxi when he was stopped. He is now being sent to the capital of Santiago de Chile.

The newspaper said that van der Sloot -- who shot to infamy five years ago when he became the prime suspect in the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba -- crossed the border into Chile on Sunday accompanied by two unidentified Peruvian men.

As he sat in a Chilean jail Thursday on charges that me murdered a young woman in Lima, Peru, earlier this week, those who know him describe van der Sloot as an athletic and arrogant young man with a yearning for women and risk that led him across the globe.

Joran van der Sloot was a gambler.

Even as the young man was hounded by suspicions and cameras for his role in the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway five years ago, he could be found at poker tables on two continents.

Van der Sloot met Holloway when he was just 17 at a card table in Aruba. It was one of the last times she'd be seen alive. Van der Sloot was never charged in that case but remains the prime suspect.

Five years to the day -- on Sunday -- video cameras would show van der Sloot leaving a poker tournament in Lima with 21-year-old Stephany Flores.

On Tuesday, she was found with a broken neck and wrapped in a sheet at a Lima hotel just a few blocks from the casino. Two days later, van der Sloot's luck ran out whenpolice in Chile detained the 22-year-old fugitive as he traveled between the resort town of Viña del Mar and the capital of Santiago.

Dressed in a black-hooded sweat shirt and with his brown hair close cropped, van der Sloot was seen walking calmly and uncuffed into a Chilean police station escorted by three officers.

Van der Sloot's attorney in New York, Joe Tacopina, cautioned against rushing to judgement.

``Joran van der Sloot has been falsely accused of murder once before,'' Tacopina told the Associated Press. ``The fact is he wears a bull's-eye on his back now and he's a quote-unquote usual suspect when it comes to allegations of foul play.''

Also Thursday, the U.S. Attorneys Office in Alabama received an arrest warrant against van der Sloot on wire fraud and extortion charges. Money was wired from a Birmingham institution in May to Joran Van Der Sloot after he requested $250,000 in exchange for the whereabouts of Holloway's remains and the circumstances relating to her death, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorneys office.

The information he provided was false, the release said.

Noah Acre was playing Texas hold 'em in the Asia Pacific Poker Tour in Macau in 2009 when he looked up to see van der Sloot sitting across the table.

Recognizing the tall Dutchman from the round-the-clock television coverage that the Holloway case generated, he recalls van der Sloot did not seem shy about his notoriety.

He wore a loud, multicolored jacket with the logo of L.A. Café -- a seedy Manila bar and brothel -- and was surrounded by an entourage of young men.

Acre asked van der Sloot why he kept dealing with the media after being burned by a Dutch journalist who released hidden-camera footage that seemed to show him confessing to disposing of Holloway's body.

``Because they gave me money,'' van der Sloot responded.

``I am pretty good at sizing people up quickly,'' Acre said of the man he spoke to several times during the week-long tournament. ``He seemed like all he cared about was partying and getting girls ... The whole Natalee Holloway thing didn't seem to weigh on him one bit.''

Things might have been different.

Van der Sloot, the eldest of three sons, had originally planned to attend university in Florida.

But after his arrest and subsequent release, he returned to his native Holland where he studied business. He didn't stay out of the limelight for long. Hounded by tabloids and television cameras, he traveled to New York to give a televised account of his involvement with Holloway.

When Acre met him in Macau, van der Sloot claimed to live in Thailand. The same Dutch journalist who had taped him claims van der Sloot was in Bangkok selling Thai women into prostitution in the Netherlands.

As early as last summer, van der Sloot moved once again.

``The last time I spoke to his mother, she said he was in South America,'' Magda Frans, the secretary at the Aruba Racquet Club told The Miami Herald. ``Which part, she didn't know.''

Joran and his father, Paulus, often played doubles tennis at the club, she said.

The night before he was arrested for the first time in Holloway's disappearance, he played doubles tennis with his father in the Moet & Chandon Anniversary Cup tournament, Frans said.

``They lost,'' she said.

The match took place at 7:30 p.m. June 8, 2005. Some 10 hours later, Aruban police arrested him. The day was supposed to be memorable for other reasons -- he was supposed to graduate with honors that evening from the International School of Aruba.

It was a double blow to his mother, Anita, who taught at the school.

When reached at her home -- a one-story cinder block house painted mustard yellow -- Anita van der Sloot sounded composed and attempted to politely dismiss any inquiries about her son.

She has two other sons, Valentijn and Sebastian. She is now a widow. Her husband died suddenly last February while playing tennis.

``I don't know anything,'' Anita told The Herald. ``I haven't been in contact with Joran for a long time, not si

According to Peruvian authorities, van der Sloot traveled to Argentina and Colombia before arriving in Lima on May 14 for the Latin American Poker Tour.

On Thursday, Stephany Flores' father, Ricardo, said he hoped van der Sloot's capture would bring solace to others beyond his family.

``This is not just about my daughter,'' he told reporters in Lima. ``There is also the case in Aruba that is pending and we don't know how many more.''

On MySpace and Facebook pages that appear to have been created by van der Sloot, the young man seems to have the tastes of most men his age.

He is a fan of the South Park television show, scantily clad women, the late rapper Notorious B.I.G., and President Barack Obama.

He's also a member of a Facebook page called "If I could turn back the time'' where users share their biggest regrets. If van der Sloot had any, he didn't show his cards there.

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