Columbiana aiding in help to find Holloway

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A close friend of Beth Twitty pleaded with Columbiana businessowners Thursday in attempts to raise money for the Natalee Holloway recovery fund in Aruba.

Marilyn Whitlock of Columbiana, who flew in from Aruba to sell the &uot;Hope for Natalee&uot; bracelets, said she has been close with the Twitty family for a number of years, ever since her husband and Jug Twitty met in college.

Whitlock and other close friends have been flying back and forth from Aruba to stay with Natalee’s mother, Beth Twitty, who has not left the island since she arrived, the day after her daughter was last seen.

Natalee Holloway, a recent graduate of Mountain Brook High School, traveled to Aruba at the end of May with more than 100 of her fellow MBHS graduates.

She disappeared the night before she was to leave for home.

Since that time, Aruban authorities and residents have joined her family and friends in the search for some sign of what became of the teenager.

Holloway disappeared more than six weeks ago and money is tight, according to Whitlock.

Columbiana’s House Hardware was one of the many businesses she approached about selling the &uot;Hope for Natalee&uot; bracelets.

Owner Lee House said he decided to buy the bracelets because he knows the family’s struggle is a concern for the community.

&uot;It is a good cause,&uot; he said. &uot;And we try to help the community and much as we can.&uot;

The bracelets, which are sold for $5 each, were donated by Ducopak, a marketing company in Pelham, and Whitlock said all the proceeds go to the Natalee Holloway Recovery Trust Fund, which is covering costs of the investigation into the Alabama teen’s disappearance.

Expensive cellular phone and legal bills are among some of the financial costs the family has incurred since they began searching for Natalee in Aruba, Whitlock said.

She said people are also able to donate to Natalee Holloway Reward Fund, which is paying for information leading to Natalee’s recovery.

It was previous stated that the award would pay for information leading to Natalee’s &uot;safe return.&uot;

However, officials in the investigation stated last Wednesday that the award would now pay for any information leading to her recovery, a definite reflection of the family’s changing attitude toward the investigation, she said.

&uot;The last time I talked with Beth, I was real hopeful. She said, ‘One day, I am burying her. The next day, I am wanting her home alive.’ It’s just like the waves in that ocean,&uot; she said tearfully. &uot;It is a ride.&uot;

She said the Aruban justice system has confused and frustrated the Twitty family since their arrival, especially since many of suspects in the case have been released.

When an Aruban appeals court ruled last Thursday to keep Joran van der Sloot, a Dutch teenager who appears to be the primary suspect, for 60 more days, Whitlock said everyone was relieved.

&uot;Beth was panicked. She thought they would release him,&uot; she said.

She said family and close friends of Natalee believe that the three men, Deepak Kalpoe, 21, Satish Kalpoe, 18, and Joran van der Sloot, 17, were involved in her disappearance, but she said everyone has different theories about exactly what happened to her.

Whitlock said Twitty still has hope that Natalee will come back to the hotel room where her things were packed to go home, but she is also preparing for the worst.

&uot;She won’t look at the water. She won’t go out on the beach,&uot; Whitlock said. &uot;She is afraid that (Natalee’s) body will be found.&uot;

Two businesses in Columbiana have the bracelets available, and Whitlock said she is grateful.

&uot;There are lots of people in Shelby County who are praying and involved in solving this,&uot; she said