Unearthed remains in Aruba would match timeline for Alabama teen's 2005 disappearance, pathologist says

A forensic scientist says there’s reason to believe that human remains allegedly dug up in the case of Natalee Holloway match the timeline of her presumed 2005 death in Aruba and the secretive removal of those remains five years later.

Dr. Jason Kolowski made that assertion on the fourth episode of the six-part Oxygen series The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway, which aired Saturday.

The show tracks Natalee’s father, Dave Holloway, and his investigator T.J. Ward as they pursue an informant’s claim that Natalee’s remains were removed, cremated, and tossed at sea at the request of Joran van der Sloot, the longtime suspect in the Alabama teen’s unsolved disappearance.

“The lead is interesting, but it’s one part of a lot of other things that still have to fall into place to really give this investigation the legs on which to then move forward in handing this over to the Aruban police,” Kolowski says on the episode.

Dr. Jason Kolowski
| Credit: Forensic Insight Consulting, LLC.

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The series earlier showed an alleged accomplice say on hidden camera that he accepted an offer of $1,500 from Van der Sloot to dig up the remains, which the alleged accomplice claimed included blonde hair in a burlap bag that dripped black-brown fluid as he raised the bag from the ground.

“You’re really questioning right now the forensic value of what may be left behind,” Kolowski told Ward.

“From what I can tell you, based on everything that is described as far as the disinterment of the remains in 2010, [it] fits with what we would expect for the normal decomposition of the human body, especially in this type of an environment and this type of a locale,” Kolowski said.

To Ward’s investigative team, he added: “The $100 question that you’re not asking is, is that material biologically active and can we use it to identify Natalee?”

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“That’s kind of where the problem comes in,” he says. “It’s decomp material. It’s not exactly blood. It’s not exactly bone or hair or anything like that. Should we find bone, hair even soft tissue still in that gravesite, that’s your biological material. That’s what we want for the DNA comparison.”

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In promoting the series, Dave Holloway recently said the discovery of an alleged gravesite in Aruba unearthed human skeletal remains. It’s a claim disputed by Aruban authorities, who say they checked out a site brought to their attention by Dave but did not find human skeletal remains.

Natalee, 18, of Mountain Brook, Alabama, vanished May 30, 2005, on the final night of a high school graduation trip to Aruba. She was last seen by classmates in the company of Van der Sloot, who has spun numerous tales of what happened that night while avoiding any criminal prosecution in the case.

In the story shared with Dave and Ward by the informant — a man named Gabriel who assisted with their investigation — Van der Sloot allegedly gave Natalee GHB, a date-rape drug, and she later choked to death on her own vomit.

Van der Sloot is currently serving 28 years for a 2010 murder in Peru on the fifth anniversary of Natalee’s disappearance.

According to the theory advanced by the Oxygen series, the alleged accomplice in Aruba — who has not been charged in the case — says Van der Sloot panicked as authorities were getting close to locating Natalee’s grave. Van der Sloot then enlisted his friend to find and retrieve Natalee’s remains, mixing them with the bones of a dog that Van der Sloot himself dug up, and had them cremated together for $200 and scattered in the ocean.

>Kolowski, the forensic scientist, recently confirmed that at least one of four bone fragments recovered by Holloway and Ward’s efforts match a Caucasian of European descent, like Natalee, but DNA tests to find further links are pending.

The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway airs on Saturday (7 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET) on Oxygen.