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Holloway suspect sought in murder of Peruvian woman

LIMA, Peru — A young Dutchman previously arrested in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway is the prime suspect in the weekend murder of a Peruvian woman, police said Wednesday.

Joran van der Sloot is being sought for Sunday's killing of 21-year-old Stephany Flores in a Lima hotel, police chief Gen. Cesar Guardia told a news conference. He said the suspect crossed into Chile the next day by bus.

The killing occurred exactly five years after the May 30, 2005, disappearance of Holloway in Aruba, a Dutch Caribbean island.

The Dutch government said Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for van der Sloot.

Guardia said the 22-year-old Dutchman, in Peru for a poker tournament, appears with the young woman in a video taken at a Lima casino early Sunday and the two were later seen entering the hotel by one of its employees.

The victim's father, circus impresario and former race car driver Ricardo Flores, says his daughter dropped off some girlfriends at 2:35 a.m., then apparently returned to the casino. She and van der Sloot were seen entering the hotel room about 5 a.m., said Guardia, and the Dutchman departed alone about four hours later.

"We have an interview with a worker at the hotel who says she saw this foreigner with the victim enter his room," said Guardia.

Stephany Flores' body was found face down on the hotel room floor on Wednesday, abrasions on her face and body and signs of trauma, the police chief said. He said she was clothed.

Asked if she had been asphyxiated, Guardia said he was awaiting autopsy results.

Van der Sloot left Peru on Monday by land, Guardia said, his exit registered at the Santa Rosa border crossing. He had been staying at the hotel since May 14, having entered on a flight from Colombia, the police chief added.

An attorney for van der Sloot in New York City, Joe Tacopina, said he did not know his client's whereabouts and has not been in touch with him since the Peru allegations emerged.

Tacopina cautioned against a rush to judgment.

"Joran van der Sloot has been falsely accused of murder once before. The fact is he wears a bull's-eye on his back now and he is a quote-unquote usual suspect when it comes to allegations of foul play," Tacopina said.

Van der Sloot was twice arrested but later released for lack of evidence in the 2005 disappearance of Holloway, who was on a high school graduation trip to the Caribbean island.

No trace of her has been found, and van der Sloot remains the main suspect in the case, said Ann Angela, spokeswoman for the Aruba prosecutor's office.

Two years ago, a Dutch television crime reporter captured hidden-camera footage of van der Sloot saying he was with Holloway when she collapsed on a beach, drunk. He said he believed she was dead and asked a friend to dump her body in the sea.

Judges refused to arrest van der Sloot on the basis of the tape.

Holloway suspect sought in murder of Peruvian woman 06/02/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 3, 2010 12:26am]
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