ORANJESTAD, Aruba – The parents of Natalee Holloway, the Alabama teen who vanished during a high school graduation trip to Aruba, say they oppose moving their civil trial from New York to the Caribbean island because witnesses are too terrified to testify there.
The motion opposing the move, filed by Dave Holloway and Elizabeth Twitty in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, says they "and several other key witnesses in this case have been subject to intimidation, hostility and death threats."
The Holloway-Twitty court papers, which don't elaborate on the cited threats, also say New York courts are considered to be "legitimate" and permit a broader-based pretrial investigation than courts in Aruba.
"Aruba represents a corrosive and abusive environment, as menacing and prejudicial to their quest for justice as the process could possibly be," the parents' papers say.
Natalee Holloway, 18, of Mountain Brook, Ala., went missing in Aruba in May 2005 during a trip there with classmates. Last month, her parents sued Paulus and Joran van der Sloot in New York for unspecified damages related to her disappearance.
Twitty, of Alabama, and Holloway, of Mississippi, say Joran van der Sloot, the son of Paulus, imprisoned and sexually assaulted their daughter and was responsible for her disappearance. A summons related to the lawsuit was served on the van der Sloots in New York, where the Dutch youth did television interviews about the case.
Last month, a lawyer for the van der Sloots moved to dismiss the Holloway-Twitty lawsuit on the ground that the case has no connection to New York. Attorney Joseph Tacopina said all parties to the action are nonresidents of the state and the cause of the lawsuit — Natalee's disappearance — arose in Aruba.
Tacopina also has said in court papers that it would be unduly burdensome for Paulus van der Sloot to travel from Aruba, where he lives, and for Joran to travel from Holland, where he is in school.
The parents' court papers, filed late Tuesday, say at least six important witnesses live in New York and others live in Princeton, N.J., and Philadelphia. They also say a young woman who claims to be a former Joran van der Sloot victim says she would testify in New York but not in Aruba.
The parents' papers say this young woman can identify two others who had experiences with the younger van der Sloot "in circumstances eerily reminiscent of what happened to Natalee."
The papers also say New York is convenient for people who knew Natalee well and can counter a "smear campaign" that she used drugs, drank heavily and was sexually promiscuous.
"All these witnesses refuse to travel to Aruba but have committed to testifying in New York at the trial of this action," say the court papers, which claim the witnesses have said they are "terrified to return there."
"In fact, even the Aruban government has expressed its strong preference that this case proceed in New York," the parents' court papers say. "When all of these factors are considered, it's not even a close call."
The parents' lawsuit says their daughter first met Joran at a casino and later in a nightclub where he served her alcohol until she was drunk. Natalee supposedly was last seen with the younger van der Sloot, who the parents allege attacked her.
Tacopina was traveling Wednesday, his office said. But he said after the lawsuit was filed that his clients "unequivocally and vehemently deny these allegations."