Two Charged in Aruba Missing Teen Case
ORANJESTAD, Aruba (AP) _ Two men were charged Sunday in connection with the disappearance last week of an Alabama teenager who was visiting the island with classmates to celebrate their high school graduation, Aruba’s attorney general said. Authorities on the Dutch Caribbean island also requested a special diving team from the FBI because of rough currents in some areas, said Attorney General Caren Janssen.
The arrests came nearly a week after 18-year-old Natalee Holloway disappeared during a five-day trip to Aruba with more than 100 other classmates from Mountain Brook High School, near Birmingham, Ala.
The men _ ages 28 and 30 _ were arrested Sunday morning at two separate homes in the southeastern community of San Nicolas, Janssen said at a news conference in the capital.
Janssen declined to provide specific charges, saying the case will go before a judge within 48 hours to determine whether they can be legally held. She said authorities had not found any of Holloway’s belongings at the suspects’ homes.
``The charges have a relationship with the disappearance,″ Janssen said, without providing details. ``There is a reasonable suspicion they may be involved.″
Authorities impounded three vehicles found at the two homes, and a team of more than a dozen FBI agents will help perform forensic testing on them, police said.
Police spokesman Edwin Comemencia said that authorities had not ruled out the possibility that other people were involved. The two men in custody were not among three others described Saturday by police as ``persons of interest.″
Janssen declined to comment whether there is a relationship between the suspects and the three others, who told police they dropped off Holloway at her hotel around 2 a.m. on May 30. Hotel employees, however, say that security cameras did not record her entry.
``We hope she’s alive,″ police commissioner Jan van der Straaten said. ``Everyday I see the light at the end of the tunnel.″ Van der Straaten called on the public to be patient because the investigation will ``take time.″
Neighbors described the two detained men as security guards who worked at a hotel closed for renovation near where the teen was staying at the Holiday Inn. Deputy police chief Gerold Dompig confirmed that the suspects were security guards.
Holloway’s uncle, Paul Reynolds, who came from Houston to help with the search, said he hoped the detentions would help investigators.
``Of course I’m excited about any developments,″ he said before the charges were announced. An award of $50,000 has been offered for information leading to Holloway’s rescue.
On May 30, the night Holloway was last seen, she attended a beach concert featuring Boyz II Men and Lauryn Hill at Surfside beach in southern Aruba, Tourism Minister Edison Briesen said. About 8,000 people attended the concert, which was part of the third annual Soul Beach Music Festival.
Holloway then ate and danced at Carlos ’N Charlie’s bar and restaurant. She did not show up for her return flight, and police found her passport in her hotel room with her packed bags.
Authorities were overheard on a police frequency Sunday evening issuing a bulletin to stop a rented white Toyota in connection with the disappearance of the 5-foot-4-inch blonde. Dompig declined to confirm it.
At least 70 people showed up for a prayer vigil Sunday evening at a lighthouse on Aruba’s gusty northwest point, singing a hymn and listening to a brief sermon by the Rev. Larry Waymire, an American who has lived in Aruba for six years.
``This is a trying time, not only for Aruba but for the world as a whole,″ Waymire, originally of Lexington, Tenn. , said during the 10-minute ceremony. ``This has touched the lives of millions of people around the world.″
Hundreds of Arubans and American residents have joined the hunt, upset that Holloway’s disappearance could mar the image of this tranquil island. About 500,000 Americans visited Aruba last year.
Holloway’s disappearance has shaken a sense of safety many Arubans took for granted in an island of 72,000 people that saw one murder and six rapes last year. This year, there have been two murders and three rapes, police said.
Holloway, a straight-A student, had earned a full scholarship at the University of Alabama and planned to study premed, Reynolds said. He described his niece as a levelheaded girl who would not have done anything rash.
Authorities said a blood-soaked mattress found at a beach in eastern Aruba turned out to be blood from a dead dog found nearby.