Natalee Holloway had her whole life ahead of her when she suddenly vanished while on a school trip to Aruba in 2005. Her mom, Beth, searched tirelessly for clues that might lead her to her daughter’s whereabouts. There were many twists and turns in the case and three prime suspects — although no one was held accountable. Then, over 18 after the teenager disappeared, Beth and all of those who knew and loved Natalee finally found the answer they were looking for.
Natalee was a driven student
Natalee was a star student, and she graduated from Mountain Brook High School with honors. But the teen hadn’t always had her nose stuck in a book. She also packed her schedule with a number of extracurricular activities.
These included participating in the dance team and the National Honor Society. She was also due to start at the University of Alabama after being awarded a scholarship to the prestigious school.
It was a graduation trip to remember — for all the wrong reasons
Prior to starting college, Natalee and her classmates planned to celebrate their graduation in style. In May 2005, a group of 125 students from Mountain Brook High School jetted out to Aruba for a short vacation. Natalee was 18 years old, but seven chaperones were also there to watch over her and the other kids.
Yet according to Natalee’s mom, Beth, her daughter was hardly a party animal. In a 2006 interview with Vanity Fair, Beth said the teen was motivated and well-behaved — and not typically one for boyfriends or raucous behavior.
Her family was worried from the start
Even though Natalee had already traveled to Europe and Canada, her father, Dave, confessed that he had reservations about Aruba. "I told her flat out she was not going to Aruba if I had anything to do with it," he told NBC News.
Her uncle Paul Reynolds said, "Natalee's naive. She hasn't dated a lot. She doesn’t party a lot." Even Natalee apparently worried about a nightspot in Aruba called Carlos 'n Charlie's.
There had been trouble in the past
Beth told NBC News, "My stepson had had an encounter at Carlos 'n Charlie's during 2003." She described how her stepson had intervened when he saw some locals coax "young females into leaving the establishment with them."
But despite this, Beth still felt it was an exciting opportunity for Natalee, and Natalee even convinced her father it was a good idea. "There's safety in numbers," Beth said.