Holloway suspect trial to restart

Joran van der Sloot’s trial in the murder of a Peruvian woman was set to restart on Wednesday, nearly seven years after he became the prime suspect in the unsolved disappearance of an American teenager on holiday in Aruba.

Van der Sloot, who was arrested but not charged in the 2005 disappearance of 19-year-old Natalee Holloway on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, is charged with killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores in his Lima hotel room on May 30, 2010, after the two left a casino together in the day’s wee hours.

The slaying happened five years to the day after Holloway’s disappearance, an Alabama woman who was celebrating her high school graduation in Aruba and was seen leaving a nightclub with van der Sloot. Her body has never been found.

Van der Sloot said on Friday he would “sincerely confess” to killing Flores in a plea strategy aimed at reducing his eventual prison sentence, prompting judges to suspend the trial until Wednesday.

Natalee Holloway suspect to begin murder trial

Under Peruvian law, a prison term for a “sincere confession” to a murder is normally much shorter than one for an outright guilty plea. Prosecutors have said van der Sloot robbed and killed Flores before fleeing the scene of a crime to Chile.

But on the first day of his trial in Lima on Friday, he told the court he should not be charged with aggravating circumstances of the murder that could lengthen his sentence.

The 24-year-old Dutch citizen had repeatedly shaken his head as the prosecutor described for the judges how van der Sloot allegedly “brutally” beat and strangled the victim in his Lima hotel room, intending to rob her.

His defense lawyer has said van der Sloot would plead guilty. If he formally enters a “sincere confession” to the judges the trial would quickly enter a sentencing phase and he could spend less than a decade behind bars.

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The defense has complained that the panel of three judges is made up exclusively of women and might be biased against him.

Peruvian prosecutors were initially expected to try for a sentence of life in prison against van der Sloot. But they had to scale back their plans and are expected to ask for a 30-year term because of sentencing guidelines for murders in which robbery could be the primary motive. The victim’s family wants a life sentence.

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Van der Sloot has told police he strangled Flores, a skilled poker player and the daughter of a wealthy businessman, after he found her looking at his laptop computer in his hotel room. The laptop contained emails about Holloway’s death.

Van der Sloot fled to Chile after Flores’ death but was arrested there and returned to Peru for questioning.

Van der Sloot was arrested twice in the Holloway case but he was never charged due to a lack of evidence. Holloway’s family has criticized Dutch authorities for not making more progress in the case.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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