Van der Sloot to "sincerely confess" to murder in Peru
LIMA (Reuters) - Dutch citizen Joran Van der Sloot said on Friday he would "sincerely confess" to killing a Peruvian woman in 2010 in a plea strategy that aimed to reduce his eventual prison sentence, prompting judges to suspend the trial until next Wednesday.
Van der Sloot, who was arrested but not charged in the 2005 disappearance of 18-year-old Alabama woman Natalee Holloway on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, had previously said he strangled 21-year-old business student Stephany Flores after meeting her in a casino in Lima.
On the first day of his trial in Lima, he told the court he should not be charged with aggravating circumstances of the murder that could lengthen his sentence.
Under Peruvian law, a prison term for a "sincere confession" to a murder is normally much shorter than one for an outright guilty plea. Prosecutors have said Van der Sloot robbed and killed Flores before fleeing the scene of a crime to Chile.
If Van der Sloot formally enters a "sincere confession" to the judges on Wednesday, the trial would quickly enter a sentencing phase and he could spend less than a decade behind bars.
His defense lawyer had said earlier on Friday Van der Sloot would plead guilty.
Van der Sloot's plea strategy prompted the panel of three judges to suspend the trial, which started on Friday, until Wednesday, when his defense team will provide a detailed response to charges presented by prosecutors.
The defense has complained that the panel of three judges is made up exclusively of women and might be biased against him.
Van der Sloot smiled nervously as the trial opened, at times closed his eyes, snoozed or yawned, and stumbled over his own words in Spanish as he told the judges of his plea plans.
Peruvian prosecutors were initially expected to try for a sentence of life in prison against Van der Sloot. But they had to scale back their plans and are expected to ask for a 30-year term because of sentencing guidelines for murders in which robbery could be the primary motive. The victim's family wants a life sentence.
Peruvian police said Flores, a skilled poker player and the daughter of a wealthy businessman, was robbed and killed on May 30, 2010, exactly five years after Holloway disappeared.
Van der Sloot has told police he strangled Flores after he found her looking at his laptop computer in his hotel room. The laptop contained emails about Holloway's death.
Van der Sloot, reportedly 24 years old, fled to Chile after Flores' death but was arrested there and returned to Peru for questioning.
The murder probe brought renewed attention to the case of Holloway, who vanished during a high school graduation trip to Aruba, where Van der Sloot was living.
Van der Sloot was arrested twice in the Holloway case but he was never charged due to a lack of evidence. Holloway's family has criticized Dutch authorities for not making more progress in the case.