By MSNBC analyst & former FBI profiler
updated 6/30/2005 11:38:49 AM ET 2005-06-30T15:38:49

The now month-old mysterious disappearance of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway from a high school graduation trip to Aruba continues to frustrate Americans and others across the world who are following this case, while the Aruban Police continue to plod along in their investigation, one that has seen seven arrests and four of these seven quickly released due to lack of evidence against them.

After the release this week of 26-year-old now former party boat DJ Steve Croes, (he's been fired from his job on the "Tattoo,") someone who said he did not know any of the three currently incarcerated suspects, to include 17-year-old Joran Van Der Sloot and brothers Deepak (age 21) and Satish (age 18) Kalpoe; and Paulus van der Sloot, an Aruban judge in training and father of Joran, one must wonder where the local authorities in Aruba are going with this case. Of course the suspects haven't been much help either. Croes, for example, denies knowing any of the three primary suspects. He indicated that he made up the story that he saw them drop Natalee off at her hotel the night she disappeared (thereby providing the three suspects with their initial alibi) just to be a good guy -- (makes you question his veracity, if not his sanity), noting, of course, that Croes frequented the Internet cafe that employed one of the Kalpoe brothers and supposedly happened to overhear Deepak telling this story, so he retold the story and made himself a witness (dumb). The senior van der Sloot may well have been arrested to put pressure on his son, everyone's current leading suspect, but Mr. van der Sloot was quickly released, again due to lack of evidence connecting him to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.

He said that he said...
We now hear that Mickey John, one of the two security guards originally implicated by Joran and the two Kalpoes as being the last people seen with Natalee -- men that were themselves arrested and subsequently released -- has now suggested that Deepak Kalpoe told him that Paulus van der Sloot may have counseled or otherwise advised the three current suspects on how to deal with the authorities and the questions that would be asked of them should they be arrested, or that Mr. van der Sloot might, perhaps, have been otherwise complicate in Natalee's disappearance. The Aruban prosecutor has indicated that Paulus' counsel to the three included "when there is no body you don't have a case," with this advice provided to the three the day after Natalee disappeared. Who knows at this point? Was the former security guard telling the truth, i.e., did Paulus coach his son and the Kalpoes that only their own words could send the three of them to jail, or was this simply a tit-for-tat by Mickey John, i.e., "You guys lied about me and got me thrown in jail, so I'll lie about all of you and keep you in jail."

As I discussed in my previous article, "Holloway: Two steps backward?" there are a number of potential scenarios to explain Natalee's disappearance, and many of you have written to suggest variations of the eight theories that I discussed. It would be logical that Paulus, due to his legal background, would have the ability (and motive) to coach his son and the Kalpoes as to what they would encounter at the hands of the authorities. This could be especially true since the police delayed for days the arrest of the three at the start of this investigation, thereby, perhaps, losing the opportunity to find linking physical evidence, and/or at least allowing the three suspects to develop and practice their mutual story. But all of this is now water under the bridge. The police are very tight lipped about their investigation, and that's ok if they have something going, i.e., they may well have information and/or evidence that makes this case far tighter than any of us can imagine -- at least I hope so!

Who might talk and why
If, in fact, the Kalpoes were "only" accessories after the fact, by this they helped Joran to kidnap or otherwise dispose of Natalee, even if successfully coached by Paulus or someone else, they would seem to have a lot to gain by striking a deal with the police, if, that is, they know anything about Natalee's disappearance. Were I interviewing them, I'd make sure that they knew that someone involved in this matter would get a one-way ticket off the island, and that anyone else involved was going to get a one-way ticket to jail. Which ticket did they want? But again, if the Kalpoes were more than just a little involved, and if they had been successfully coached or intimidated, would they talk or not? If between the three principal suspects, with or without the coaching of another, they all came to the conclusion that without a victim, without a body, without a crime scene, and without linking physical evidence they would all eventually be released, then they just might be able to keep their collective mouths shut. And Joran, well, he's changed his story a number of times, (why did he need to keep changing his story if he is truly innocent we need ask), and as the current primary suspect, he would appear to have the most to lose by talking, and the most to gain, unfortunately, by his continued silence.

Get out of jail free
Just as the previous four arrestees have been set free by the court due to the lack of evidence connecting them with Natalee's disappearance, without the Texas search team or others finding some indication of the fate of Natalee, the now "silent three" may meet a similar fate. By this, there is a continuing review by a local judge of the evidence, if any, linking the three to Natalee's disappearance, and eventually, without some kind of physical evidence and/or the statements of others or the confession of someone, they may also be set free in the not too distant future. Aruba is under a lot of political, in reality, financial pressure to resolve this case. Americans know they can vote with their wallets and credit cards, and they may vote to visit some other "happy island" in the future should this case not be solved.

The FBI has drastically reduced its presence on Aruba, perhaps down to two or three agents or employees. In reality, even if the FBI had 100 agents on the island, Aruba is still a sovereign nation, as well as a Dutch protectorate, and they are not going to turn this case over to the FBI for any reason. Honestly, we'd do the same if it were an Aruban girl missing in America, but I'd rest easier with experienced U.S. police and the FBI agents working the case, but that still would not, in and of itself, guarantee that this case would have been solved by now, even though most Americans would like to think as much. And to the question of polygraphs, well, the Aruban police don't necessarily believe in them, and have thus far refused the FBI's offer to provide this investigative technique.

So now what?
Right now the Aruban police are continuing to interview the three incarcerated suspects and their family and friends, this in an attempt to develop information to help in their ongoing interrogation of the three, while trying to find out what happen to Natalee, to include, in the worst case scenario, where someone could have disposed of her body. Don't forget that the authorities must still consider the possibility that these three may have had nothing to do with this case, that they have lied for other unknown reasons, and that there may be some other explanation for Natalee's disappearance, but this remains remote at this time.  Many of you have written to me about your travels to Aruba and your knowledge of the island and locations where a body could be disposed of, information that would also be known to the local police and the search teams.

For all the missing
I often think of the case of missing then 23-year old American Amy Bradley, last seen on a cruise ship heading into Curacao in 1998 . Amy's mother writes me that she keeps a candle burning in her bedroom window and a spotlight pointed at the ribbon on their tree in memory of Amy. Mrs. Bradley's best-case scenario is that her daughter was kidnapped and is being held in a place unknown by persons unknown. And of course there are the 30 Americans believed missing in Mexico just this year and the hundreds of other missing persons whose families, like those of Amy's and Natalee's, don't dare change their telephone number for fear that their missing child might call some day and get a wrong number. This is any parent's hell on earth, and we all hope and pray for strength for Natalee's and Amy's families and the families of all missing children across the world, of which, unfortunately, there are tens of thousands. Makes you want to hug your children doesn't it?

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, 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."


Discussion comments