Community members from the Alabama city where Natalee Holloway grew up are reflecting once again on her disappearance as news broke this week that the prime suspect in her murder is expected to be extradited to the United States, WVTM-TV reports.
Holloway vanished in 2005 while vacationing in Aruba days after graduating high school. Her remains have never been found, but Joran van der Sloot, a Dutch national who lived on the Caribbean island, has long been suspected of playing a role in the disappearance of the American teen, who was 18 at the time.
At Smith’s Variety, a toy and gift shop in Mountain Brook, Alabama, employees made numerous yellow bows to affix on mailboxes in support of the Holloway family in 2005.
Store owner Brad Simpson, who bought the business three years ago, recalled learning from employees how the idea of the bows came about.
“It’s always been front and center in people’s minds in Mountain Brook because not many things have happened on that scale here, so it’s still kind of near and dear to this community,” Simpson told the television station.
“And so when I came along, it was prior to my time, but it was still kind of the heart of Smith’s and who we are as kind of providing for the community.”
He added: “It still resonates with so many people, it resonates with me, because I have an 18-year-old daughter that graduates from high school in a couple of days, so it really hits home to me, and I can’t imagine what the family is going through. And I just hope they can get some kind of closure around this.”
Simpson said residents have continued to make bows as a way to show support for others in the community.
“We’ve done quite a few bow fundraisers and bow things, and that’s probably the largest that we’ve ever done in the history of Smith’s, and it just shows the support of the community,” Simpson told WVTM-TV. “It shows kind of how much this community will rally around people, and we’re blessed to be a part of that and still blessed to be a part of that.”
The extradition stems from claims that van der Sloot bilked Holloway’s mother, Beth, out of $25,100, according to CNN. The mother paid van der Sloot in 2010 for details about the location of her daughter’s remains, but authorities say van der Sloot gave false information and failed to honor his promise, which led to a U.S. grand jury indicting him on charges of extortion and wire fraud. He has yet to face prosecution on the allegations.
A lawyer for van der Sloot told CNN that he will appeal the extradition. His client remains in a Peruvian prison, serving a 28-year sentence for murdering 21-year-old Stephany Flores in a Lima hotel room.
In a statement this week, Beth said she is committed to seeing van der Sloot held accountable for the death of her daughter, who would be 36 years old.
“It has been a very long and painful journey, but the persistence of many is going to pay off. Together, we are finally getting justice for Natalee,” the statement reads, according to NBC News.
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[Feature Photo: Joran van der Sloot/Peruvian mug shot, left, Natalee Holloway/FBI]