What a long strange trip it’s been for Dutch playboy Joran Van Der Sloot who pleaded innocent again as Chilean authorities turned him over to Peruvian prosecutors who say he murdered 21 year old Stephany Flores. Van Der Sloot fled Peru where he’d played in a gambling tournament before inviting Flores to his hotel room where her body was recovered three days later. As with the Natalee Holloway disappearance and suspected murder, Joran Van Der Sloot pleads innocent again.
Van Der Sloot’s high profile American attorney Joe Tacopino is already making use of conflicting press reports to pave the way to a defense. Tacopino cautioned against a “rush to judgment” and publicly wondered why Flores’ body wasn’t found until three days later.
“Don’t they clean the room?” Tacopino queried aloud.
Tacopino is the sort of buttoned up, custom-tailored defense attorney you’d expect to find in cases where a criminal defendant appears plenty guilty but the evidence can be put on trial. His capable defense tactics nearly succeeded in the April 2007 Melanie McGuire murder case but fell short when McGuire was convicted of murdering her husband, chopping his body up, and setting his parts adrift in suitcases dumped off a bridge. McGuire was a specialized medical practitioner, familiar with methods of cleaning tell-tale crime scenes. Although having escaped prosecution in the Natalie Holloway case, Van Der Sloot is not nearly so clever, and likely left damning clues in the room where Flores was murdered, and in the victim’s car which Joran Van Der Sloot drove and abandoned 50 blocks away.
Van Der Sloot was captured by alert authorities and Chile and handed over to Peruvian cops at the border. Her father, a former race car drive and influential Peruvian, has vowed that Van Der Sloot will “pay” for killing the girl.
According to a New York Post story on June 4, persons who knew the murder victim said she had met with family disapprobation owing to her sexual orientation. A former girlfriend of the victim went on the American television program “Good Morning America” to describe Stephany Flores as a “good girl” afflicted with an intense insecurity.
Tacopino also appeared on the “Good Morning America” program to decry the lack of evidence. It is not known, at this point, if Mr. Tacopino will continue to defend Van Der Sloot, but he has made a case for it by publicly clouding the murder with a counter narrative. Tacopino’s comments, as reported by ABC News are liberally sprinkled with the cloud seeds of doubt. The focus of any Van Der Sloot defense will be upon time of death. One example of Tacopino’s tactics appearing on the ABC news site demonstrates the challenge for prosecutors:
“But Tacopina pointed out that her body was not found until Wednesday and questioned how it was possible she was killed days before without hotel staff knowing…”
That’s a fairly easy question for homicide cops to answer, but such insinuations are aimed at setting up a backwash of public opinion.
Public opinion is not likely to have so much panache in Peru as it does in America, however, and Van Der Sloot has few fans. With the FBI prosecuting him for extorting money from Beth Holloway, a penitentiary stay is unavoidable except by divine intervention. Nor do such things as the reported discovery of date rape drugs in the victim’s car and in Joran Van Der Sloot’s hotel room endear him, stalked as he is by the wan ghost of Natalee Holloway, crying out for justice.