It’s been 12 years since 18-year-old Natalee Holloway disappeared. The Alabama native mysteriously went missing during a high school graduation trip to Aruba, and to this day, no one knows exactly what happened.
Her case captured the attention and hearts of millions across the U.S. People were invested in either Holloway’s safe return or legal justice. However, with time, the world moved on from her infamous missing persons investigation — something her family never could.
Though her parents, Dave and Beth, declared their teenage daughter deceased in January 2012, the two never really got answers, let alone proof, that their daughter was, in fact, dead. In a recent interview with “Today,” Dave informed viewers that, alongside a private investigator, he may have found his daughter’s remains buried in a backyard in Aruba.
It will take up to several weeks to find out whether or not the remains are from Holloway’s body.
And now, Jessica Caiola, a fellow student who was also on the fateful trip to Aruba, is speaking out for the first time in Oxygen’s upcoming series, “The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway.”
Per the Daily Mail, Caiola recalled the details of their last night together — the final night of the trip, and the night Holloway disappeared.
She said they went to a bar they’d been to a few times before called Carlos’n Charlie’s, where she proceeded to snap some photos.
Those pictures would be the last ever taken of Holloway:
“I never took a photo of Natalee before that night. […] But like I said what I find so interesting about these pictures is never in my life before this moment had I taken a picture of Natalee, she was never in my pictures. So I definitely think that that night there was something — that I wanted to be around her.”
Despite the fact that more than a decade has gone by, Caiola said she doesn’t need a picture to remember one detail about that night with absolute certainty: Joran van der Sloot was there.
She said they’d seen him several times throughout the trip, and initially, everyone just found him attractive:
“I remember seeing Joran van der Sloot at the casino at our hotel. That was the first time I saw him and I remember chatter of him. ‘He’s so cute,’ ‘Who’s going to hook up with him?’ Those sort of things were floating around. That was probably the extent to which I got close to him.”
Caiola admitted she can’t recall whether Holloway was friendly with him at that time, but she said he came around multiple times after that:
“I don’t even remember if Natalee with with him at that point, or if any of us were necessarily with him. What I can tell you is he was there multiple nights of our trip. I believe it was the second to last night I saw him at the casino.”
As for the night she went missing, Caiola would bet anything on the fact that he was there:
Ernesto Benavides/AFP/Getty Images
“He was absolutely at Carlos’n Charlie’s, 1,000 percent.”
And Caiola said that as they were leaving, she witnessed Holloway drive away in someone’s car:
“We decided that we were going to leave and wait for the shuttle and then while waiting for the shuttle, grab some street food.
While we were waiting for street food I remember seeing Natalee in a white car driving away, the window was down so we could see it was her in the back of the car. My impression was ‘Oh, great, she found a ride back to the hotel.'”
That was the last time she believes she saw Holloway.Screenshot/YouTube
As for Caiola, the real trauma surrounds what happened the next day…
She and her classmates were set to leave the island some time in the morning, but when they realized Holloway was missing, they thought she had just overslept and couldn’t stop laughing about it. It wasn’t until later that they realized how grave the situation was.
Caiola expressed some remorse for being so nonchalant initially, but no one could have prepared for the 12-year mystery that was to follow.
Van der Sloot has been a top suspect in Holloway’s case. He’s been brought in twice for Holloway’s disappearance but was never charged with her murder because of a lack of evidence. He’s currently serving 28 years behind bars for the murder of another woman.
Despite the time that has passed, Holloway’s friends and family are still searching for answers, and depending on the results of the human remains recently discovered, they might finally get them.