LIMA (Reuters) – Dutch citizen Joran Van der Sloot apologized in court on Wednesday for killing a young Peruvian woman in 2010 and accepted murder charges against him in a plea that could lighten his sentence.
Van der Sloot, who was arrested but never charged in the 2005 disappearance of 18-year-old Alabama native Natalee Holloway on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, killed 21-year-old business student Stephany Flores after meeting her in a casino in Lima.
“I am sorry. The truth is I feel very bad,” he told the panel of three judges. He said “yes, yes” when asked if he was guilty and if he was accepting the charges in exchange for the chance of receiving a shorter jail term.
By asking for a “forestalled conclusion” to the murder trial, the equivalent of pleading “no contest” in other countries, the judges could swiftly sentence him on Friday.
His lawyer, Jose Jimenez, said earlier this week that Van der Sloot’s plea could reduce his sentence to 10 years from 25-35 years.
Jimenez said that at the time of Flores’s death, Van der Sloot was suffering from “post-traumatic stress” caused by inquiries into his possible ties to Holloway’s disappearance.
Van der Sloot, reportedly 24 years old, smiled and appeared relaxed on Wednesday as he chatted with his lawyer after the judges suspended the trial until Friday.
Peruvian police said Flores, a highly-skilled poker player and the daughter of a wealthy businessman, was robbed and killed on May 30, 2010, exactly five years after Holloway disappeared.
Van der Sloot has told police he strangled Flores 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.
The murder probe brought renewed attention to the case of Holloway, who vanished during a high school graduation trip to Aruba, where Van der Sloot was living.
Van der Sloot was arrested twice in the Holloway case but he was never charged due to a lack of evidence as they never found her body. Holloway’s family has criticized Dutch authorities for not making more progress in the case.
(Reporting By Guillermo Garcia and Terry Wade; Editing by Vicki Allen)