Caught squarely in the klieg-lit spotlight of an international media starved for fresh news, attorneys for the three suspects detained last week in the long-unsolved disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway will return to an Aruban courtroom today to battle with a new prosecutor and a new team of investigators.
But the ravenous public hunger for new developments in the investigation — reawakened suddenly with last week's arrests — may not be sated anytime soon.
For the public and the media, the case is a rich source of casual, who-done-it speculation and debate.
For the people directly involved — the embittered parents; the pressured prosecutors and investigators; the defense attorneys, whose dedication has forged in them a deeply felt devotion to the three men they feel have been irretrievably stained and broken by false accusations; and the high school friends who will never again recall their spring graduation without a penetrating sense of sorrow, loss and regret — nothing could be more real, more serious or more disturbing.
Still, it appears the wait for answers may continue for some time. They may never be satisfactorily answered.
Today's court hearings are not expected to shed significant new light on this mystery that has haunted the island nation and captivated the American public for more than two years.
But at some point soon, Aruban authorities will have to show their hands and the new evidence they have so closely guarded will surface publicly. The strength of that evidence will likely finally reveal whether the world will ever learn what happened to the pretty, promising young graduate from Mountain Brook, Ala.
Nevertheless, the divorced parents of the young girl are expected to return to Aruba this week to carry on their anguished odyssey to finally learn what happened to their daughter, who disappeared from a local beach after a night of partying that ended in the company of the three suspects, Joran Van der Sloot and Satish and Deepak Kalpoe. The 18-year-old was on the island, celebrating her high school graduation with a group of friends and classmates.
For the lawyers, friends and families on both sides, the stakes are higher than ever.
Aruban prosecutors are under legal pressure to either make their case or drop it by year's end. The Kalpoes' attorneys have argued authorities should not be allowed to continue their investigation indefinitely and prosecutors have agreed to set a timetable of Dec. 31 to either bring charges or drop the case.
What prosecutors are obliquely referring to as "new evidence" appears to be wiretapped conversations between the suspects, culled from listening devices secretly planted in the Kalpoes' home earlier this year, defense attorneys say.
In May, a fresh team of police investigators and prosecutors took over the vexing case in the hope that new eyes would find new leads to follow. That same month, the Kalpoes were briefly rearrested and a surprise search was conducted at their home — a modest, neon-green, single-story house near the base of Hooiberg mountain.