Mystery Man in Holloway Case Comes Forward

The man named as accomplice in the Aruba disappearance denies any involvement.


ORANJESTAD, Aruba <br> Feb. 5, 2008&#151; -- A 21-year old Aruban came forward Monday to say that he is the mystery man that Joran van der Sloot implicated on undercover tapes, but claims that he had nothing to do with the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.

Daury Rodriguez said he was contacted on Saturday by a frantic biographer of Van der Sloot's who, he said, warned him that his name was about to surface in the press as being the alleged accomplice who took Holloway's body out to sea in a boat and dumped it.

"She said, 'I got your number from Joran, because he said your name is going to show up in the press, but I know it's not true. It doesn't fit the story, so you've got to do something about it. You've got to give me proof [of his whereabouts in May 2005], so I can put it in the newspaper ... here in Holland."

Rodriguez, who grew up on Aruba and played soccer with Van der Sloot when both men were teenagers, said he was angry that his name had been dragged into the case.

He said he met with detectives investigating Holloway's disappearance on Monday morning, and that he told them he was living in Rotterdam, Holland in May 2005, when Holloway went missing.

Rodriguez retained an Aruban lawyer when he realized he was implicated in the case, and said he asked the biographer to put him in touch with Van der Sloot, but she refused.

Van der Sloot apparently logged on to an online instant messaging service over the weekend, and Rodriguez said he confronted him and demanded to know why he'd been named as an accomplice.

"So, I was online, and he comes online, and I was like, 'Yo, what's wrong with you, man. Why did you do that?' And he's like, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't know what I was talking about. I'm so sorry.' And I said, you know, 'What the f---? Sorry? Don't say that! That's [b.s.]. You're putting me in trouble for nothing.'"

Rodriguez said he played soccer with Van der Sloot when the pair were about 16 years old, and that, while he knew him as an acquaintance, he would never call him a friend.

He said they played poker together at a local casino late last year after Van der Sloot was released from his second arrest.

Rodriguez's attorney Chris Lejuez said his client was born in Colombia, but moved to Aruba as a child when his mother married an Aruban man. Lejuez said Rodriguez moved to Rotterdam to attend trade school in 2004, and stayed on through June or July of 2007, working there.

Rodriguez returned to Aruba in January and December of 2005 for vacation, but was not on the island for months before or after Holloway's disappearance.

He told ABC News he never owned a boat. "I never had one, and I don't have one,'' he said.

Asked how he could prove his whereabouts during 2005, Rodriguez said that ATMs he had used in Rotterdam could show he was there in May 2005.

Lejuez said he provided investigators with the name of the trade school Rodriguez had attended and the company he later worked for in Rotterdam.

Police searched the home of Van der Sloot, Monday, one day after an undercover video was broadcast on Dutch TV, in which he bragged about having a friend dump the apparently lifeless body of Natalee Holloway at sea.

The TV report by a Dutch journalist triggered new interest in the frustrating two-year probe into the disappearance of the Alabama teenager who vanished during a drunken night in Aruba.

Aruba prosecutors appealed a judge's refusal to issue a third arrest warrant for Van der Sloot.

Investigators searched two homes in the Netherlands this morning where Van der Sloot lives or has lived, Aruba's chief public prosecutor, Hans Mos, said.

But Mos has been blocked from issuing a new arrest warrant for Van der Sloot, and went to court to appeal the ruling.

Mos said today he considers undercover tapes made by Dutch investigative reporter Peter De Vries to be "very valuable information'' that he believes will ultimately prove to be admissible in court.

"We consider it serious information and very valuable information,'' Mos told reporters at a press conference here today. "That's why we asked a judge to reopen the investigation."

A judge granted that request last week, but denied prosecutors' request for a third arrest warrant. Van der Sloot and two other Aruban men were arrested in the summer of 2005, and rearrested again last fall before they were released for lack of evidence in December.

An Aruban judge "put the threshold very, very high [for an arrest warrant for Van der Sloot] because, he said, 'this is the third time you have asked me for a rearrest,''' Mos said. "This was a tough decision for the judge, and it was also a tough decision for my office to consider a rearrest for the third time."

Van der Sloot last week insisted he had lied earlier this month when he told Patrick Van der Eem, whom he considered a close friend and confidant, that he'd panicked when Holloway appeared to go into convulsions during a sexual encounter, and he called a friend, who took her seemingly lifeless body out to sea.

Mos said he was unimpressed by those denials.

"That's exactly what we expected him to do,'' Mos said at a press conference Monday. "This was expected by us. Yet [Van der Sloot] made these statements not one time, but several times. He repeated this story."

A key question that remains unanswered is whether the undercover tapes, 20 hours in all, will be admissible as evidence. Noting that De Vries' investigation was "private," Mos seemed to indicate that fact would play in prosecutors' favor.

"We did not influence, in any way, his gathering of this information,'' Mos said.

Independent attorneys on Aruba have questioned the validity of the tapes in a court of law.

"The evidence has to be legally acceptable to a judge,'' said Lejuez. "If a policeman would be involved in an investigation like [De Vries'] without the proper instruction from a judge, it would not be legally acceptable."

Still, Lejuez said, De Vries is "a very well known Dutch reporter, who has solved many other complex cases. He has become famous for this. He has solved cases nobody else thought could be solved, using, of course, his own methods."

This is the second set of prosecutors who have sought to solve the disappearance of Holloway, who was visiting Aruba on a high school graduation class trip. She met Van der Sloot and two other local men at a raucous nightclub called Carlos N' Charlies. From there, she and Van der Sloot went to a beach in the early morning hours for an amorous encounter.

Van der Sloot, who had steadfastly insisted for more than two years, that he left the young woman on the beach, has long been the key suspect in the case.

Last May, a fresh team of police investigators and prosecutors, headed by Mos, took over the vexing case in the hope that new eyes would find new leads to follow. That same month, Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, who were with Van der Sloot the night he met Holloway, were briefly rearrested, and a surprise search was conducted of their home, a modest, neon-green, single-story house, near the base of Hooiberg Mountain.

During the May search of the home, investigators allegedly planted bugs there so they could monitor the brothers' conversations, defense attorneys claimed.

Because of information gleaned from those wiretaps, all three men were rearrested last fall, but were all released for lack of evidence. Late last year, Mos announced that the case would be closed, essentially admitting defeat.

It was after that December release that De Vries' undercover investigation began in earnest.

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