Joran van der Sloot was flown back to Aruba after he was re-arrested in the Netherlands as a suspect in the disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway, Monday, Nov. 26, 2007. (AP)
LIMA, Peru (AP) - A young Dutchman previously arrested in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway is the prime suspect in the weekend murder of a Peruvian woman, police said Wednesday.
Joran van der Sloot is being sought for Sunday's killing of 21-year-old Stephany Flores in a Lima hotel, police chief Gen. Cesar Guardia told a news conference. He said the suspect crossed into Chile the next day by bus.
Authorities in Chile confirmed that van der Sloot entered their country on May 31 and there is no record of him leaving. Police inspector Douglas Rodriguez in Arica told The Associated Press that police are searching hotels and residences in northern Chile for the suspect.
The Dutch government said Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for van der Sloot.
Guardia said the 22-year-old Dutchman, in Peru for a poker tournament, appears with the young woman in a video taken at a Lima casino early Sunday and the two were later seen entering the hotel by one of its employees.
The victim's father, circus empresario and former race car driver Ricardo Flores, says his daughter dropped off some girlfriends at 2:35 a.m. then apparently returned to the casino. She and van der Sloot were seen entering the hotel room about 5 a.m., said Guardia, and the Dutchman departed alone about four hours later.
"We have an interview with a worker at the hotel who says she saw this foreigner with the victim enter his room," said Guardia.
Stephany Flores' body was found face down on the hotel room floor on Wednesday, abrasions on her face and body, and signs of trauma, the police general said. He said she was clothed.
Asked if she had been asphyxiated, Guardia said he was awaiting autopsy results for the exact cause of death.
The killing occurred exactly five years after the May 30, 2005, disappearance of Holloway in Aruba, a Dutch Caribbean island.
Van der Sloot left Peru on Monday by land, Guardia said, his exit registered at the Santa Rosa border crossing. He had been staying at the hotel since May 14, having entered on a flight from Colombia, the police general added.
The victim's father is a 48-year-old former president of the Peruvian Automobile Club who won the "Caminos del Inca" rally in 1991 and brings circuses and foreign entertainers to Peru. He ran for vice president in 2001 and for president five years later on fringe tickets.
Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for van der Sloot, Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Bengt van Loosdrecht told The Associated Press in The Netherlands.
He cited as his sources Peruvian police and the Dutch Embassy in Lima. The embassy's head of consular affairs, Angela Lowe, told the AP she could not comment on the case.
But Rodriguez, the Chilean police inspector, said authorities there had so far only received an order to locate his whereabouts, not an arrest warrant.
An attorney for van der Sloot in New York City, Joe Tacopina, said he did not know his client's whereabouts and has not been in touch with him since the Peru allegations emerged.
Tacopina cautioned against a rush to judgment.
"Joran van der Sloot has been falsely accused of murder once before. The fact is he wears a bull's-eye on his back now and he is a quote-unquote usual suspect when it comes to allegations of foul play," Tacopina said.
Van der Sloot was twice arrested but later released for lack of evidence in the 2005 disappearance of Holloway, who was on a high school graduation trip to the Caribbean island.
No trace of her has been found and van der Sloot remains the main suspect in the case, said Ann Angela, spokeswoman for the Aruba prosecutor's office.
"What's happening now is incredible," she said. "At this moment we don't have anything to do with it, but we are following the case with great interest and if Peruvian authorities would need us, we are here."
Van der Sloot's late father was a prominent judge in Aruba.
The mystery of Holloway's disappearance has garnered wide attention on television and in newspapers in Europe and the United States.
Two years ago, a Dutch television crime reporter captured hidden-camera footage of van der Sloot saying he was with Holloway when she collapsed on a beach, drunk.
He said believed she was dead and asked a friend to dump her body in the sea.
Judges subsequently refused to arrest van der Sloot on the basis of the tape.
A spokeswoman for Holloway's mother, Beth Twitty of Mountain Brook, Alabama, told the AP the family was aware of the development in Peru but would have no comment.