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Suspect in Natalee Holloway case is expected to enter plea in extortion charge

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The chief suspect in Natalee Holloway’s 2005 disappearance is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning, where he is expected to plead guilty to trying to extort money from her mother and provide new information about what happened to the missing teen.

Joran van der Sloot, 36, who is charged with extortion and wire fraud, is scheduled to go before a federal judge in Birmingham, Alabama, for a plea and sentencing hearing. Attorney John Q. Kelly, who represented Holloway’s mother during the alleged extortion attempt, said the plea deal was contingent on van der Sloot providing details about what happened to Holloway.

Van der Sloot is not charged in Holloway’s death. He is charged with trying to extort $250,000 from Holloway’s mother, Beth Holloway, in 2010 to reveal the location of her daughter’s remains.

Holloway went missing during a high school graduation trip to Aruba with classmates from Mountain Brook High School. She was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot. He was questioned in the disappearance but was never prosecuted. A judge declared Holloway dead, but her body has never been found.

The hearing, which will be attended by Holloway’s family and held a few miles from the suburb where Holloway lived, could be a key development in the case that captivated the public’s attention for nearly two decades, spawning extensive news coverage, books, movies and podcasts.

A heavy media presence had begun assembling outside the federal courthouse nearly three hours before the hearing.

U.S. District Judge Anna M. Manasco indicated in a court order that she will hear victim impact statements, either submitted in writing or given in court, from Holloway’s mother, father and brother before sentencing van der Sloot

Holloway’s family has long sought answers about her disappearance. If van der Sloot has given prosecutors and the family new details, a key question for investigators will be what is the credibility of that information. Van der Sloot gave different accounts over the years of that night in Aruba. Federal investigators in the Alabama case said van der Sloot gave a false location of Holloway’s body during a recorded 2010 FBI sting that captured the extortion attempt.

Prosecutors in the Alabama case said van der Sloot contacted Kelly in 2010 and asked for $250,000 from Beth Holloway to reveal the location of her daughter’s remains. Van der Sloot agreed to accept $25,000 to disclose the location, and asked for the other $225,000 once the remains were recovered, prosecutors said. Van der Sloot said Holloway was buried in the gravel under the foundation of a house, but later admitted that was untrue, FBI Agent William K. Bryan wrote in a 2010 sworn statement filed in the case.

Van der Sloot moved from Aruba to Peru before he could be arrested in the extortion case.

The government of Peru agreed to temporarily extradite van der Sloot, who is serving a 28-year prison sentence for killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores in 2010, so he could face trial on the extortion charge in the United States. U.S. authorities agreed to return him to Peruvian custody after his case is concluded, according to a resolution published in Peru’s federal register.

“The wheels of justice have finally begun to turn for our family,” Beth Holloway said in June after van der Sloot arrived in Alabama. “It has been a very long and painful journey.”

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