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Two men are focus of murder probe in case of missing teen

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

ORANJESTAD, Aruba -- The attorney for two former security guards arrested in the disappearance last month of an Alabama honors student said Tuesday his clients were being investigated for murder and kidnapping.

The men have not been charged in the disappearance of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway and authorities have not said she was a victim of foul play. Earlier in the day, police said they had not ruled out accidental death in the case.

A judge was to determine Wednesday whether authorities have enough evidence to continue to hold the two men, who deny any connection to the high school graduate, said defense lawyer Chris Lejuez.

"They both say that during the time" of the disappearance, "they were not at the (girl's) hotel and they don't know this girl," Lejuez told The Associated Press.

Lejuez said judicial authorities told him of the murder and kidnapping allegations as he met with his clients.

Meanwhile, police and the FBI kept up a search for Holloway, but a lack of any solid leads was hindering progress after nine days, according to several officers. Local officials asked the FBI to bring in dogs trained to search for people.

A massive search involving more than 700 volunteers on the southeastern tip of Aruba -- where the two suspects were arrested Sunday -- yielded no leads Monday.

More than 4,000 civil servants who had been given the day off and encouraged to volunteer in the search effort returned to work Tuesday.

The parents said they had not received any request for ransom or any other evidence that she had been kidnapped in this Dutch Caribbean territory.

In an interview with The Associated Press, they thanked the people of Aruba for helping in the search.

"The support is phenomenal," said her mother, Beth Holloway Twitty, 44.

Holloway has been missing since May 30, when she vanished while on a five-day trip with more than 100 classmates celebrating their high school graduation on this Dutch Caribbean island. Seven chaperones accompanied them.

She had spent her last night eating and dancing at Carlos 'n Charlie's bar and restaurant, which has contributed $5,000 of a $55,000 reward for information on Holloway.

Authorities had not ruled out any possibilities, including that Holloway may have drowned, Attorney General Caren Janssen said. Two divers among the eight FBI agents in Aruba have been searching the waters surrounding the island, Comemencia said.

The two men in custody were security guards at a hotel two blocks from the Holiday Inn where Holloway was staying. Their work contracts expired the day before she disappeared, a police officer told The Associated Press.

The men were known to police because they had a habit of going around to hotels trying to pick up women or bum cigarettes, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The officer said several islanders told police the men frequently were seen hanging out at different hotels talking to female tourists. No complaints had been filed against them.

One of the suspects had a brush with the law, but it was not a violent or sexual offense, the officer said without elaborating.

Police last week questioned and released three other men -- described as "persons of interest" -- who told police they took Holloway to a beach and then dropped her off at her hotel the night she vanished.

An official close to the case told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday that one of the three is the son of a Dutch justice ministry official who has lived on the island for more than 10 years and is studying at a school there.

Holloway's parents and other relatives who rushed to the island last week refused to give up hope of bringing her home alive.

"I feel determined. I won't leave here until I find my daughter," said Holloway Twitty, who was accompanied by the missing girl's stepfather, Jug Twitty.

The girl's brother Matt, and a stepbrother, George Twitty, were to arrive later Tuesday, carrying 1,000 prayer bracelets made by her friends, said Holloway's aunt, Marcia Twitty.

In Holloway's hometown of Mountain Brook, Ala., residents tied yellow ribbons to everything from mail boxes to ATMs.

Holloway's disappearance has upset Arubans, who take pride in the island's reputation for friendliness and safety.

Tourism accounts for 70 percent of the economy in the territory of 97,000 people, with 73 percent of visitors coming from the United States. Many American tourists have volunteered to help in the search.


Associated Press correspondent Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala., contributed to this story.


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