Aruban defense attorneys dispute alleged evidence in Holloway case

Published 11:51 pm Saturday, December 22, 2007

A suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway never mentioned her death in an online chat, his lawyer said Friday, contradicting Aruban prosecutors who called the comment key new evidence in the case.

The chat log fell far short of justifying the arrest of Deepak Kalpoe, one of three men seen with the American teen the night of her disappearance, said attorney Ronald Wix.

A court in the Dutch Caribbean island agreed and quickly released Kalpoe, along with brother Satish and a third suspect, Joran van der Sloot. Now, authorities should leave the three men alone, Wix told reporters.

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“If they as much as look at our clients too long, we’ll take them to court,” said Wix, who also represents Satish Kalpoe.

The three suspects were seen leaving a bar with Holloway on the final night of her high school graduation trip to the island. Holloway attended junior high in Clinton, Miss., and her father still lives in Meridian.

Aruban prosecutors detailed the chat log for the first time Thursday, saying it was a key clue that they hoped would break open the long-stalled investigation. The men did not speak with investigators while detained and a judge ordered their release for lack of evidence.

Upon their release, authorities said they had reached a dead end after two years of pursuing fruitless searches and leads, though they could still prosecute the men if they uncover evidence.

In discussing the online chat, prosecutor Hans Mos told reporters that one of the suspects — he did not disclose which — wrote that Holloway, 18 at the time of disappearance, was dead. He also said Internet messages among two suspects discussed meeting drunk American girls in Aruba.

Wix said the prosecution misinterpreted Deepak Kalpoe’s Internet chats.

The 24-year-old native of Suriname in fact told a friend he was upset and thought it was stupid of him to let Holloway, whom he called a drunk stranger, get into his car, the attorney said.

Kalpoe then commented on the death of a tennis teacher who drowned in Aruba almost three years ago. When prosecutors translated his writing from Papiamento to Dutch, they substituted ‘the death’ to ‘her death,’ and assumed he was talking about Holloway, Wix said. Most Arubans speak Papiamento, a Creole language that has absorbed words from Spanish, Dutch, English and Portuguese.

Mos was on vacation Friday and could not be reached for a response. Another prosecutor, Dop Kruimel, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Holloway vanished May 30, 2005, hours before she was to return home to Mountain Brook, Ala. Extensive searches of the island turned up no trace of her, but the Aruban prosecutors have said they believe she is dead — though without a body they admit a prosecution would be difficult.

Van der Sloot has said he dropped Holloway off at the beach and all three suspects have denied any involvement in her disappearance.