Joran van der Sloot won't talk to trial judge in Peru

Murder suspect retracts his confession, citing police intimidation, and clams up

Published June 21, 2010 9:31PM (EDT)

Murder defendant Joran van der Sloot refused to speak to the Peruvian judge handling his case Monday, while a Dutch newspaper reported that he has retracted his confession.

Superior Court Judge Carlos Morales visited the 22-year-old Dutchman at the maximum-security prison in eastern Lima where Van der Sloot has been held since being charged with first-degree murder in the May 30 killing of a young woman he met playing poker in Peru's capital.

But Van der Sloot would not talk, citing his lawyer's petition to declare his confession void in the death of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, the court said in a statement.

The lawyer, Maximo Altez, contends the confession isn't valid because the defense lawyer present when Van der Sloot made it was state-appointed.

Van der Sloot, who is also the prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance in Aruba of U.S. teen Natalee Holloway, was quoted by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf on Monday as saying he signed a confession only because he was intimidated by police.

He said they promised him he would be transferred to the Netherlands if he confessed.

"I was very scared and confused during the interrogations and wanted to get away," the paper quoted him as saying. "In my blind panic, I signed everything, but didn't even know what it said."

In addition to possible involvement in Holloway's disappearance, for which Van der Sloot has not been charged, he is wanted by the FBI on suspicion of attempting to extort money from the Holloway family.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia has said Van der Sloot will have to be tried in Flores' death before any extradition request can be considered.

If convicted of killing Flores, Van der Sloot faces from 15 to 35 years in prison in Peru.

Prosecutors allege Van der Sloot killed Flores in his hotel room, where her body was found, with "ferocity and great cruelty." According to a transcript of the confession, he elbowed the young woman in the nose, strangled her with both hands, threw her to the floor, took off his bloodied shirt and asphyxiated her.

According to the report in De Telegraaf, he now says that is not true.

"I was tricked," the paper quoted Van der Sloot as saying of Flores' killing. "I'll explain later how it all happened."

A self-avowed compulsive liar, Van der Sloot has several times made and retracted admissions of involvement in Holloway's disappearance.

He is being held in a segregated block of Castro Castro prison, having asked to be separated from the main prison population out of fear for his life.

For now he has his own 6 1/2-by-11 1/2-foot (2-by-3.5-meter) cell, which is adjacent to that of a reputed Colombian hit man, with whom he shares a television set.

Van der Sloot told De Telegraaf that rats crawl into his cell through the toilet hole at night.

His mother, Anita van der Sloot, said in an interview published by the same newspaper over the weekend that her son suffers from mental problems.

She said she doesn't believe he killed Holloway. But she said if it turns out he killed Flores, "he'll have to pay the price," and she doesn't plan to visit him in jail.

Altez, the defense lawyer, told The Associated Press on Monday that relatives of Van der Sloot would arrive in Lima next week but did not specify whether his mother would be among them.

Holloway's father, Dave Holloway, has called on Van der Sloot to reveal anything he knows about the location of Natalee Holloway's body, which has never been found. Van der Sloot has said he will only talk about the matter with Aruban authorities.


Associated Press Writer Toby Sterling in Amsterdam contributed to this report.

By Carla Salazar

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Crime Joran Van Der Sloot Latin America