June 13, 2005 | 11:00 a.m. ET

Teen's disappearance in Aruba remains a mystery

As you are aware, it has been two weeks since 17-year-old Holloway disappeared while on a five-day high school graduation trip to Aruba, an island of about 115 square miles with a population of 97,000, with 124 fellow classmates from Mountain Brook, Ala (near Birmingham). Her bags were found in her hotel room along with her passport, but she has not been seen since May 30th. Public information appears to indicate that she had been partying and drinking at Carlos 'N Charlie's, a local bar, and had been observed by classmates to leave the bar at about 1:30 AM in the custody of three local men, to include Joran Van Der Sloot, the 17-year old son of an Aruban judge and two brothers, Satish Kalpoe, 18 and Deepak Kalpoe, 21. The 17-year old male was allegedly seen in the back seat of a car kissing Holloway, with the two brothers in the front seat of the car on the night she disappeared. Friends allegedly saw her in the car, asked her to get out and go with them, but she refused and left in the car with the three local males. The two Surinamese brothers have indicated that they and the Dutch youth took Holloway to Arashi Beach and to a lighthouse at that location. The three young men allegedly have indicated that they later drove an intoxicated Holloway back to her hotel and dropped her off in the parking lot, observing a man with a radio assisting her (perhaps indicating a security guard), however hotel security cameras and security guards have not confirmed her return. This testimony did lead to the arrest of two former security guards who worked in the local area, Abraham Jones, 28 and Mickey John, 30. Unlike the USA, the Aruban authorities can keep someone in custody without filing formal charges for over three months while the investigation continues, therefore five or six men remain in custody at this time.

Video: Challenges in Aruba It was recently reported, and then retracted, that one of the three men had confessed to murdering Holloway and was to lead authorities to her body. We are now told that one of the young men has only stated that "something bad happened to her." We also have heard that blood has been found in the car allegedly occupied by the three young men and Holloway, and that blood samples have been returned to the US for examination, probably by the FBI, however the Dutch, who have jurisdiction in Aruba, also have a very good forensic capability.

Right now we still have a missing persons case. As in most such investigations, the individuals last known to have been with the missing person, in this case the two brothers and the 17-year old Dutch boy retain prime suspects, especially in light of the statement attributed to one of them, again indicating, "Something bad happened to her." While Holloway may be a victim of foul play, she may have also drown or have been an accident victim, or she may be held somewhere against her will or, if you want to cover all bases, she could have simply run away, something like the "runaway bride." Speculation that she may have been kidnapped and sold into white slavery appear to be rather far fetched and totally unsubstantiated at this time.

In this case the forensic examination of the vehicle that Holloway was last seen in will be very important. If there was blood in the car, is it hers and in what quantity was is found? If hairs from her head are found in the car, the authorities will be able to tell if they were yanked or pulled out or it they simply fell out. Other hairs and fibers possibly related to Holloway or her clothing, as well as any scars or marks on any of the three to six men currently in custody concerning this matter that might be related to Holloway will also be important.

We know that the suspects all apparently have lawyers, and that Aruban authorities appear to continue to question one or more of the suspects. This is a case that could be quickly broken by a statement by any of the suspects, noting, of course, that authorities will be attempting to play one suspect against the other in an attempt to obtain information as to what happened to Holloway. The forensic portion of this case will help to build a circumstantial case should the suspects refuse to provide further information, and should Holloway not be found. FBI Agents would offer to help the local authorities develop interview strategies as well as help in the search for the victim and to provide a chain of evidence for any physical evidence gathered in this case.

We have heard criticism of the adult chaperones that accompanied the teenagers to Aruba, but one adult can only watch so many teenagers, and at 17 and 18 year old young men and women believe themselves "bulletproof" to tragedy. What Holloway and her friends may not have realized is that there are always predators anywhere young, attractive and naive young men and women are in an environment where they are drinking to excess and are vulnerable to activities that state, "what happens in Aruba stays in Aruba." There are predators in the Caribbean and other island nations that seek out the innocent and vulnerable, something like lions seeking to cut young zebras out of a herd. They then pounce when they believe their victim most vulnerable, resulting in assaults, rapes, and, in the worse case, murder. Drugs can be placed in the drinks of unsuspecting victims, further adding to their vulnerability, and such youths quickly find out that south Aruba or booze boat trips in the Bahamas are not the same as south Alabama or even south Philly.

It would appear that law enforcement has at least three good suspects in this matter, and that due to their ages, etc., that one of them will be soon prevailed upon to reveal what happened to Holloway when she was with them on her last night in Aruba. Aruba makes most of its national profit through tourism, 50% of which comes from the USA, so the pressure is on that government to solve this crime as soon as possible.

Related story - AMY BRADLEY - Some will relate this story to the mysterious disappearance of 23 year old Any Bradley who, on 3/24/98, vanished off of a royal Caribbean cruise ship while enroute to Curacau in the company of her parents. She was last seen in the company of a musician onboard the ship and family members state that other crew members were "hitting on her" while onboard the ship. Passengers were allowed to disembark in Curacau without being interviewed or asked about the missing woman, and although rumors and sightings continue to suggest that she may have gotten off the ship alive, and that perhaps she was taken as a white slave, these rumors have not been confirmed and it is just as likely, unfortunately that she was the victim of foul play onboard that ship and that her body was dumped overboard before the ship arrived in Curacau. No suspects have ever been charged in this case, one that is still officially "a missing persons matter."

Clint Van Zandt is an MSNBC analyst. He is the founder and president of Van Zandt Associates Inc. Van Zandt and his associates also developed LiveSecure.org, a Website dedicated "to develop, evaluate, and disseminate information to help prepare and inform individuals concerning personal and family security issues." During his 25-year career in the FBI, Van Zandt was a supervisor in the FBI's internationally renowned Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He was also the FBI's Chief Hostage Negotiator and was the leader of the analytical team tasked with identifying the "Unabomber."


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