Dutch citizen may plea "'no contest" in Peru murder trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 11, 2012 10:29 AM
Dutch citizen may plea "'no contest" in Peru murder trial

LIMA (Reuters) - Dutch citizen Joran Van der Sloot may accept murder charges against him in a plea offer to judges on Wednesday in exchange for a reduced sentence for killing a young Peruvian woman in 2010, his lawyer said.

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, has told police he killed 21-year-old business student Stephany Flores after meeting her in a casino in Lima.

Accepting the charges and asking for a "forestalled conclusion" to the murder trial would allow the three-judge panel in the Peruvian court to swiftly sentence him.

Normally when defendants in Peru accept charges against them, which is the equivalent of pleading "no contest" in other countries, judges give them shorter jail terms.

"At the moment, we are moving towards a forestalled conclusion ... and the benefits and positive consequences that it offers," his lawyer, Jose Jimenez, told Reuters.

He said the plea could reduce his sentence to 10 years from 25-35 years.

The murder trial started last week but was suspended until Wednesday because of haggling over how he would plea.

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, reportedly 24 years old, 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. 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)