Van der Sloot back in Peruvian court to face murder charge

Joran van der Sloot, charged with murder and robbery, will return to a Peruvian courtroom on Wednesday, January 11.

Story highlights

  • Joran van der Sloot is charged with murdering a woman in a Lima hotel room
  • Last week, his lawyer said van der Sloot would plead guilty and make a "sincere confession"
  • Instead, he voiced doubt about the charge and was granted more time to "reflect"
  • He is expected to make a decision Wednesday, which will determine what happens next

Joran van der Sloot returns to a Peruvian courtroom on Wednesday, five days after requesting more time to "reflect" on what plea he will make in his murder trial.

The 24-year-old Dutch national indicated on Friday that he was willing to make a "confession" in the 2010 killing of Stephany Flores, but that he did "not agree with the aggravating factors" as defined in the murder charge levied against him.

Given this statement, the panel of three judges decided to give van der Sloot until Wednesday to make a final decision. There is no jury.

This was the latest twist in a case that has made international headlines, in part because of the circumstances of the killing but also because van der Sloot was arrested twice, but never charged, in the 2005 disappearance of U.S. teenager Natalee Holloway.

Police say van der Sloot killed Flores in his Lima hotel room in May 2010, then took money and bank cards from her wallet and fled to Chile, where he was arrested a few days later.

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Hours before Friday's court proceedings, his attorney said that van der Sloot would plead guilty to all charges related to Flores' death. His apparent aim would have been to get a reduced sentence after making a "sincere confession."

But after the session began, he voiced doubt about the charge, leading to the delay.

On Wednesday, van der Sloot is expected to finally give his plea in the Lima courtroom. He is charged with "qualified murder" and simple robbery in the killing of 21-year-old Flores.

If it is not guilty, then the trial will resume before the all-female judicial panel. If he pleads guilty, the sentencing phase would begin.

On Friday, prosecutors went over all the evidence and witnesses they had and gave a summation of the case against van der Sloot.

The case of Holloway, who vanished in 2005 while on a graduation trip to the Caribbean island of Aruba, is part of the Peru case as well. Holloway was last seen leaving a nightclub with van der Sloot and two other men. Van der Sloot was arrested twice but never charged in Holloway's disappearance, which is still unsolved.

His attorney, Luis Jimenez Navarro, pointed out last week that the fatal attack on Flores occurred exactly five years after the Alabama teenager went missing. It has been widely reported that van der Sloot killed the woman after he believed she saw something on the Internet relating to Holloway.

"He is a young man ... who has practically lived persecuted for a crime he says he did not commit ... or for a disappearance that he cannot explain," the lawyer said. "Movies and books have been made ... At that age, and with other characteristics of his psychological profile, ... in that moment, he felt threatened and reacted in a brutal manner."

The victim's family, including her father, Ricardo Flores, had pushed for stiffer charges and said that van der Sloot hasn't looked "remorseful" in court appearances.

"He had an indifferent and prideful attitude. He looks as if he has everything under control. He looks better than when he appeared on TV after he was arrested," Ricardo Flores told CNN last year.

If found guilty on all counts, van der Sloot could face a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

Besides the Flores murder trial, van der Sloot also faces possible extradition to the United States. In June 2010, a federal grand jury in Alabama indicted him on charges of wire fraud and extortion after allegations surfaced that he tried to extort $250,000 from Holloway's mother, Beth.

He was allegedly given a total of $25,000, and authorities believe he used that money to travel to Peru and participate in a poker tournament, where he met Flores.

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