Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Paradise Lost: The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway

Natalee's Second Disappearance

For American cable news networks like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, the Natalee Holloway story was picture perfect, as was the victim, a blond-haired, blue-eyed beauty who seemed to embody everyone's concept of the all-American girl. A straight-A student, a member of the National Honor Society, a popular member of the school dance team, and the recent recipient of a full academic scholarship to her home state's flagship school, the University of Alabama.

Natalee Holloway
Natalee Holloway

The cable networks devoted unprecedented time to the story of her disappearance. Every night was the Natalee show. The big media stars took their shows on the road and broadcast live from the white sand beaches of Aruba. When there was nothing new to report, they just repeated the same thing they'd said the night before. And always there were pictures of a beautiful, smiling Natalee.

Family and friends of the missing Alabama teen made the TV rounds nightly. Competing networks fought over which Aruban government officials they could put on television next. As the story grew, there were charges and countercharges, accusations and denials, lawsuits, and crazy theories about cover-ups, drugs, and sex slavery. Private eyes "volunteered" their time, most hoping to cash in later. Psychics tried to commune with Natalee through the ether. Americans ate it up. The cable channels' ratings and revenues shot through the roof.

Kidnapped poster for Natalee Holloway
Kidnapped poster for Natalee Holloway

What got lost in the self-absorbed, self-created media madness was a kid from Alabama who'd just graduated from high school, a girl who may have felt she was all grown up, a young lady already so successful in her brief time on earth that she may have thought she could handle anything, that she could get herself out of any situation.

What got lost—for a second time—was Natalee Holloway.

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