Some Americans may have a “where did I hear that name before” reaction to Joran Van Der Sloot. Most Americans and a considerable part of the rest of the world recognize the name Natalee Holloway. Natalee Holloway was the eighteen year-old from Alabama who went to Aruba with members of her senior class to celebrate their graduation. One night, a group of girls went to a very popular bar, Carlos’ n Charlie’s, on their last night in Aruba. The students and their chaperones had agreed that there was to be a buddy system, that no one went alone with any new acquaintances but the plan wasn’t always honored. On that night, May 30, 2005, Natalee was having a wonderful time on the crowded dance floor. When her friends decided to return to their hotel, Natalee decided to stay at the nightclub.
During their week in Aruba, the room assignments at the hotel were fluid. Girls tended to spend the night in the room of whichever classmate they were with when the night ended so it wasn’t until Natalee didn’t join the group for the trip to the airport, that anyone realized no one had seen her since the night before. The Aruban police were called and they interviewed Natalee’s friends who remembered that Natalee was dancing with a Dutch boy who lived on the island. Joran Van Der Sloot was easy to remember. Not yet eighteen, Joran was slightly over 6′ 4″ and he looked like the boy next door in anyone’s neighborhood.
Joran was cooperative. He told the police that he and Natalee had gone for a walk on the beach, that Natalee was drunk, that she fell asleep on the beach, and he left her there. Hardly an admirable young man, but if what he said was true, he wasn’t guilty of an arrestable offense. There was no sign of Natalee anywhere.
As police investigated and Natalee’s parents became increasingly frantic, Joran Van Der Sloot was examined closely. The Van Der Sloots were convinced that their son could never have harmed a young woman but they admitted that from the time he was very young, Joran was a confirmed liar. His parents knew that they could not take his word for anything. Joran had begun drinking before he entered his teens and, at about the same age, he had discovered poker. Joran sold himself to new acquaintances as a professional poker player, a major figure in the international championships. In fact, Joran was a gambling addict, spending hours playing poker online. He always needed money, not to pay his debts, but to get into yet another game.
For months, the police arrested Joran and then had to release him for lack of evidence. This game played out for years.
One thing Joran learned from his experiences with the Aruba police was that he could get away with just about anything. His gambling debts had yet to get him into any serious trouble and the accusations about his involvement in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway didn’t make a dent in his armor. Joran Van Der Sloot was arrogant, a liar, and, possibly, a murderer but no one could touch him.
Natalee Holloway’s body has not yet been found.
On May 30, 2010, exactly five years after the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, Stephany Flores Ramirez, age 21, died at the Hotel Tac in Lima, Peru. Her body was found by a maid on June 2. She had been beaten to death. The police knew immediately that the room had been rented by Joran Van Der Sloot. Cameras in the hallway of the hotel showed Joran bringing Stephany into his room. They had met at a poker game in the hotel, Stephany celebrating her $10,000.00 win at the Atlantic Casino. Like Joran, Stephany was a gambling addict and poker was her preferred game of chance.
The case against Joran Van Der Sloot in Peru was vastly different from the case in Aruba. In Peru, there was a body and there was evidence that put Joran and Stephany in the same room just before she died.
PORTRAIT OF A MONSTER is a book that engages the reader immediately. There are so many questions. The Van Der Sloots were not wealthy but they certainly fit into the category of “comfortable”. His father was a lawyer, his mother a teacher. Joran never did without anything; he was not brutalized at home. Joran was spoiled. He did not take well to not getting his way and his way always had something to do with the next poker stake. Joran Van Der Sloot is a narcissist without conscience. He is amoral, seeing nothing wrong in doing whatever is necessary to satisfy his desires. Poker at the level Joran claimed to play needed unlimited amounts of money and he was willing to do whatever was necessary to satisfy his belief that the next game was going to make him famous.
Joran Van Der Sloot did become famous.
PORTRAIT OF A MONSTER is well-worth reading. It flows like fiction but always keeps the reader aware that these young people were very real.