Joran van der Sloot confesses to Peru killing, but will he get off easy?

An officer in Peru's national police criminal investigation unit has confirmed that Dutchman Joran van der Sloot confessed to the May 30 killing university student Stephany Flores Ramirez.

By , Correspondent

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    Police officers escort Joran Van der Sloot during a press conference at a police station in Lima, Peru, June 5. Peruvian police said Tuesday that Van der Sloot has confessed to murdering university student Stephany Flores Ramirez in his Lima hotel room last week.
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Joran van der Sloot, a Dutchman under arrest in Peru, has confessed to murdering university student Stephany Flores Ramirez here last week.

Peru’s news radio station, Radio Programas, reported late Monday night that Mr. van der Sloot admitted to police investigators that he killed Stephany Flores, 21, early in the morning on May 30.

An officer in the National Police’s criminal investigation unit confirmed to the Monitor that van der Sloot confessed to the crime.

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Van der Sloot told officers that he had briefly left the room in the Hotel Tac at 8:10 am to buy breakfast. He returned with two coffees and bread to find Flores Ramirez surfing the Internet on his laptop.

Don't mess with my laptop!

Van der Sloot related to officers that Flores was reading details of the case involving Natalee Holloway, the Alabama teen who disappeared five years earlier on the same day. Van der Sloot had been arrested twice in that case, but released for lack of evidence. Holloway has never been found.

Flores and van der Sloot argued and he struck her to retrieve his computer. The beating continued for several minutes. Officers say there is no evidence that Flores fought back.

"I did not want to do it. The girl intruded into my private life," he told investigators, according to Peru's La Republica newspaper. "She had no right."

"I confronted her," he continued. "She was frightened, we argued and she wanted to get away. I grabbed her by the neck and I hit her."

Van der Sloot's escape to Chile

The daily El Comercio reported on Tuesday that van der Sloot said everything happened quickly and within 10 minutes of having returned with breakfast he was out the door again. He grabbed a bag and decided to leave Peru, eventually traveling by land throughout Sunday and crossing the border into neighboring Chile, 650 miles south of Lima, the following day.

Video from hotel security cameras show Van der Sloot and Ms. Flores Ramirez entering Van der Sloot's hotel room together at 5 a.m. Saturday and Van der Sloot leaving alone four hours later with his bags.

He was detained in Chile on June 3 and quickly expelled to Peru.

Peruvian investigators have been questioning him since Saturday. They have possession of the computer he claimed Flores had been searching when he killed her.

Round-the-clock surveillance

Officers say that van der Sloot has remained calm in the holding cell where he is being kept in the offices of the investigative police. He is under 24-hour observation. The confession means that he will likely be transferred to one of two maximum-security prisons in Lima while the investigation continues and authorities determine how to charge him.

If charged with homicide, that would take off the table the potential charge of aggravated robbery, which carries a life sentence here. Officers had been investigating leads that van der Sloot had killed Flores to steal her winnings (about $1,000) from a hot streak at the local casino where they had met.

Van der Sloot could face between 15 and 30 years for murder, with the severity depending on how the prosecutor views the evidence.

First degree murder would get him the maximum sentence and few opportunities for parole.

The five-year old disappearance of Holloway could play a big part in van der Sloot receiving the maximum sentence even though he was not charged in that case and has not confessed to her death, say legal experts.

Parole benefits?

A lesser charge could mean 15 years and two-for-one benefits in which each day served counts as two if the inmates works, studies, and is generally well-behaved.

The question of such benefits is a top-of-mind issue in Peru these days in the wake of another high-profile case involving Lori Berenson, the American woman paroled in late May after serving three-fourths of her 20-year sentence. There have been calls from lawmakers for the Justice Ministry to eliminate benefits for heinous crimes.

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