Joran van der Sloot's confession Monday night, to murdering a Peruvian university student, is unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.
Peru’s media has been mesmerized by the young Dutchman since the case broke June 2, and not only for the confessed murder of Stephany Flores Ramirez, 21, the daughter of a local businessman and former race car driver.
Mr. van der Sloot has long been suspected in the murder of another young woman, Alabama native Natalee Holloway, in Aruba. She disappeared May 30, 2005 and her body has never been found. Miss Flores was killed five years later to the day, May 30, in a Lima hotel room.
Although he has denied killing Holloway, Van der Sloot’s confession linked the cases. He told investigators that he killed Flores Ramirez after discovering her skimming through his laptop, looking at files of the Holloway case.
A 'psychopath' who 'hates women'
In Peru, the public anger over this case – fueled by the media – has been at a boiling point for days. Even before his confession, the local Lima press labeled van der Sloot a "monster." He has been called a "serial killer" and most articles on Tuesday, the day after the confession, called him a "psychopath."
Two of the principal dailies here used that word in the headline.
Many Peruvians, when asked, echoed that sentiment, even if their conclusions seem more based on rumor than fact.
“He’s a psychopath. I heard that he has been killing women every May 30,” says Dario Morales, a physical trainer at a local gym.
A similar opinion was shared by large group of people reading the headlines of tabloids at a Lima news stand while waiting for buses to get to work.
“This guy hates women. I bet something happened to him, he was probably raped or something, and is killing for revenge,” says Miguel Torres, a university student.
Only six years in prison for murder?
There is general agreement on the streets of Lima that Peruvian authorities need to make an example of van der Sloot for Flores’ murder.
There is speculation that the confession is a ploy to get off easy. In fact, that may have been fueled by an article in El Comercio, a major daily newspaper and website, that quotes a lawyer saying that van der Sloot may have confessed to get a reduced sentence. The lawyer explains that if the murder was an act of anger, and not premeditated, then the sentence would normally be six to 20 years under Peruvian law.
“He only confessed because he doesn’t want to go to prison for life. I think the police should continue investing and set an example with him,” says Maria Hernandez, a bank employee.
Van der Sloot could be sentenced on different charges, depending on the investigation. The most serious would be aggravated robbery, which carries a life sentence. Murders cases carry sentences up to 30 years, depending on the intent.
Out of prison by the age of 30? Maybe.
Van der Sloot, now 22, could actually be out of prison before he turns 30 if he is sentenced on second-degree murder charges.
That van der Sloot is a foreigner has created yet another subtext in the case. Several dailies have highlighted other cases of Peruvian women dying at the hands of foreigners, warning that young women should take special care.
One particularly gruesome case dredged up by the press was the 2007 murder of Jana Gomez. Her body was discovered in a suitcase that washed up on a beach in Lima after a powerful earthquake in August of that year.