Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Inside the Mind of Joran van der Sloot

Sex, Drugs, and a Confession

Van der Sloot began attending Hogeschool van Arnhem en Nijmegen in pursuit of a post-secondary degree in business management in September 2005, immediately after his release by Aruban authorities. Despite Joran's reported superior intelligence and good grades in high school, the school is far from Ivy League in reputation, and van der Sloot's course of studies, had he finished, would not have earned him the equivalent of a bachelor of arts degree in the United States, much less an MBA. His life there was hardly that of a serious student either, as he allegedly passed most days waking up in the afternoon to smoke marijuana and to play poker online at the house he shared with his roommates.

Joran van der Sloot
Joran van der Sloot

According to Patrick van der Eem's account in Overboard, Joran spent most of his waking hours in Arnhem on his computer in his room, which was littered with ashtrays, beer bottles, and miscellaneous trash. Joran played the computer game Titan Quest, an action role-playing title. In what many felt was another chilling manifestation of Joran's psyche, van der Eem reports that van der Sloot's avatar for the game was a young, blonde-haired woman who resembled Holloway.

When not at home, van der Sloot would often go to the local casino to play in poker tournaments. It was during a poker session at a casino in Nijmegen, a town near the German border and not far from Arnhem, that he had met van der Eem, a recovering addict, convicted drug felon turned legitimate entrepreneur who owned a hydraulics business. Patrick's motive from the outset, as he wrote in Overboard, was to entrap Joran in some way to reveal the truth about Natalee's disappearance.

Van der Eem also wrote that he wanted to help restore Aruba's reputation that Joran had tarnished. Van der Eem acknowledges in his memoir that he was no angel, but argues he had paid his debt to society for his previous crimes and was seeking to put things right by exposing van der Sloot.

"This punk seemed to think that all of Aruba was behind him," van der Eem wrote. "I wasn't behind him, and I wanted to heal the black eye my country had suffered from this girl disappearing."

Van der Eem used his heroin-dealing past and the gangster connections he still had to impress van der Sloot and to gain his trust. In many ways, van der Eem began to serve as a mentor to van der Sloot, counseling him about ways to get more cash for his poker addiction. Some of van der Sloot's reported schemes revealed an arrogant personality, and while many observers speak of his extraordinary intelligence, it is apparent that some of the capers he allegedly described to van der Eem were hardly brilliant ideas. For example, van der Eem says van der Sloot spoke to him about smuggling drugs stuffed in suitcases across the border by plane. If he were caught, Joran reasoned, then he would claim the drugs were planted by the authorities as part of a setup since they were unable to convict him for Holloway's disappearance.

Other money-making schemes van der Sloot allegedly discussed with van der Eem included growing and selling marijuana, creating a shell retail company to defraud creditors, among other illegal scams. Over the course of the months that followed, van der Eem said, he and van der Sloot spent a lot of time together smoking marijuana and going to casinos. It was then, van der Eem maintains, that small details revealing more elements of van der Sloot's true personality emerged. For example, van der Sloot was more than willing to implicate his roommates in illegal-money making schemes for which they would be tricked into taking the fall.

One day, van der Eem recounted, he called to offer to buy a sandwich and bring it to van der Sloot at his house, but was surprised to find that van der Sloot had not mentioned that his roommates were also there. Van der Eem claims van der Sloot then selfishly ate in front of his roommates, who, van der Eem said, were obviously hungry.

Despite his marginalized existence as hated figure who was often recognized and harassed on the streets, it seems that van der Sloot was not unsuccessful when it came to meeting the opposite sex. Not only were some young women not repulsed by what van der Sloot had done, they were even perversely attracted to him, van der Eem said. Van der Sloot, while perhaps not the most reliable source, told van der Eem that he was "knee deep in pussy."

All this time, van der Eem was colluding with investigative reporter Peter R. DeVries, who arranged for a hidden camera to record van der Sloot smoking marijuana and speaking with van der Eem about Holloway's disappearance. Van der Sloot then told van der Eem in front of the hidden camera that he had indeed had sex with Holloway on the beach and that she had then suddenly began shaking before laying still. Van der Sloot said he had then called a friend who had a boat and helped him dump the body in the ocean.

Calling her a "bitch" after describing how she lay still after the seizure, van der Sloot described the incident in selfish terms. In the video, he lamented the problems the young woman's plight was causing him. "I was nearly in tears thinking 'Why must this shit happen to me?'" he said.

The broadcast of the video on Dutch TV generated massive attention in Europe and the United Sates. Van der Sloot then claimed that he had been lying in the video just to impress van der Eem, while once again basking in the media spotlight. Aruban prosecutors were unable to enter the video into evidence to be used against him, and van der Sloot once again escaped prosecution and gained even more notoriety that he would use to generate more cash for his poker playing.

Overboard co-author E.E. Byars agrees that van der Sloot was, at the very least, not telling the complete truth in the video. In the European drug-smuggling gangster culture, killing a harmless woman violates an unwritten code of ethics that in prison is often enough to get one attacked or even killed. Knowing this, Byars speculates, van der Sloot was likely shaping his account to suit what he thought van der Eem wanted to hear, and would not have admitted to killing Natalie even if he had.

At the same time, Byars adds, the video seemed to convince van der Sloot that he would never get caught. "At this point, he thinks he is untouchable," Byars told truTV. "He has gotten away with it before, he has gotten away with other defenses before and admitting things in front of the camera, and then going 'Oh, by the way, I lied.' He feels that if he puts out ten different stories, then he is probably going to get away with it again."


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