SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The family of missing American teenager Natalee Holloway on Wednesday blamed mistakes by Aruban investigators for bringing the case to a dead end after more than two years of searching.
The girl's stepfather, Jug Twitty, said he believes witnesses in the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba know what happened but are not coming forward, and he criticized prosecutors' decision to drop the case against the only known suspects.
"It's also I think a sad day for the Aruban people because the officials there are inept," Twitty told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Birmingham, Alabama. Natalee's mother, Beth Twitty, referred a reporter's questions about the handling of the case to Jug Twitty.
The Aruba Public Prosecutor's Office said Tuesday it will not charge the three young men who were seen leaving a bar with Holloway on May 30, 2005, the night she vanished during a trip to the island with members of her Mountain Brook, Alabama, high school graduating class.
Jug Twitty said the girl's mother was considering appealing the prosecutor's decision and hoped a new search by a Texas-based private group in the waters off Aruba might find Holloway's body.
"I can't say we're optimistic," Twitty said.
The three suspects — Joran van der Sloot and brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe — were re-arrested last month and questioned for several days before their release. Prosecutors said they still believe the young men played a role in the girl's disappearance, but they cannot prove it without recovering her body. She was 18 when she vanished.
Detectives are assigned to review any new evidence that surfaces in the case, said John Pauly, a communications consultant for the prosecutor's office. Pauly added that prosecutors will detail some evidence at a news conference Thursday at the Aruban prime minister's office.
Van der Sloot, 20, a college student who was re-arrested in the Netherlands, declined to comment when reached Wednesday morning at his parents' home in Aruba.
"I'm sorry but I really have better things to do than this, OK?" he told the AP over the phone.
Jug Twitty, who recently divorced Beth Twitty, said police botched the investigation from the start by waiting nine days to arrest the three suspects, giving them "plenty of time to cover their tracks."
"There are also people I believe that know what happened but won't say anything because they have to live on that island," he said.
Complaints the last two years about the handling of the investigation prompted calls for a tourism boycott by officials in the United States, including Alabama Gov. Bob Riley.
"We'll be glad when it's out of the media ... We've suffered enough," said John Herbert, a receptionist at the Arubiana Inn on the island of white sand beaches off the coast of Venezuela.