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Joran van der Sloot may be ready to confess to Peruvian murder (+video)

Joran van der Sloot said he wanted to confess to the murder of Stephany Flores in Peru in 2010.  Van der Sloot is still a suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005.    

By FRANK BAJAKAssociated Press / January 6, 2012

Joran Van der Sloot (c.) enters the courtroom for the start of his murder trial held at the San Pedro prison in Lima, Peru, Friday. Van der Sloot stands trial Friday for the 2010 murder of the 21-year-old Stephany Flores, of Peru, nearly seven years after he became the prime suspect in the unsolved disappearance of an American teenager on holiday in Aruba.

Karel Navarro/AP

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Joran van der Sloot appears ready to accept responsibility for the killing of a Peruvian woman five years to the day after the disappearance in Aruba of U.S. teen Natalee Holloway, for which he remains the prime suspect.

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The Dutch citizen sought and received more time to decide how to plead as his trial opened Friday in the May 30, 2010, murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, whom he met at a Lima casino.

He said he was inclined to confess but doesn't accept the aggravated murder charges the prosecution seeks.

The presiding magistrate of the three-judge panel, Victoria Montoya, said the trial would resume Jan. 11.

When asked moments earlier by Montoya to enter a plea, Van der Sloot answered in Spanish:

"I want to give a sincere confession but I don't agree with all the aggravating factors the prosecutor is putting on me. Can I have more time to think about this?"

The 24-year-old Dutch citizen had repeatedly shaken his head as the prosecutor described for the judges howVan der Sloot allegedly "brutally" beat and strangled the victim in his Lima hotel room, intending to rob her.

Van der Sloot long ago admitted to police that he killed Flores, a business administration student.

But he claimed in that confession that it was in a fit of rage after she discovered on his laptop Van der Sloot's connection to Holloway's disappearance on Aruba, the Caribbean island where he was raised. Police forensic experts have disputed that version of events.

Defense attorney Jose Luis Jimenez told The Associated Press before the hearing that there was a 70 percent chance Van der Sloot would plead guilty, which could help him get a reduced sentence.

Prosecutors are seeking a 30-year prison sentence on murder and theft charges, arguing the killing was premeditated and that Van der Sloot attempted to cover it up, fleeing to Chile, where he was captured days later.

Jimenez contends his client was in a state of emotional distress when he killed Flores and would "seek to reduce the charge from first-degree murder to manslaughter," which carries a prison sentence of from eight to 20 years.

"He has accepted the murder," Jimenez said after the hearing, but not with the "aggravating factors of cruelty and ferocity."

If he pleads guilty at next Wednesday's hearing, the three judges will have 48 hours to sentence him, court officials say.

Van der Sloot entered the courtroom in Lurigancho prison in Lima on Friday morning in a blue blazer and faded blue jeans with a bulletproof vest beneath the jacket. He sported a crew cut and wore an untucked long-sleeved button-down gray shirt.

He took off the vest in the courtroom, which lacked air conditioning, and fidgeted, yawning several times and slouching in his chair while attorneys for both sides discussed new evidence and witnesses they were entering in the record.

The impatient behavior drew Judge Montoya's reproach.

"Sit up straight and show some respect for the court," she told him.

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