Local officials meet with Arubans

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Several state officials with strong ties to Shelby County traveled to Washington for a Friday meeting with Aruban authorities to discuss the case of missing Mountain Brook teenager Natalee Holloway.

Joining Congressman Spencer Bachus in the first of two meetings – the second was between Aruban officals and federal representatives – were Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens and Alabama District Attorneys Association Investigator Russell Yawn, a former investigator with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department.

Bachus offered some background on the meeting and his relationship with Aruban officials in a press release distributed Friday.

&8220;The day after Natalee’s disappearance, I contacted Aruban authorities and they agreed to invite the FBI to the island.

It was at that time I established ongoing communications with those authorities.

&8220;That communication has continued. As a result, an invitation was extended to them to come to Washington to review the Holloway investigation and answer our questions.&8221;

Members of Holloway’s family, politicians and the media have been critical of the way the case has been handled by Aruban officials since Natalee disappeared on the island during a graduation trip there in May.

&8220;We had a frank and open discussion regarding the progress of the investigation and of their efforts and intentions going forward,&8221; Bachus said.

Among the Aruban representatives at the meeting were Adolfo Richardson, the senior police official who took over the investigation after the retirement of Jon Vandor Stratten, and Renato Emerencia, the police analyst responsible for the maintenance, organization and analysis of evidence in the Holloway case.

&8220;The Arubans assured us the case is going forward with 14 investigators presently assigned,&8221; Bachus said. &8220;They also advised us that 40 percent of their annual law enforcement budget has been spent on this case.&8221;

Bachus said Aruban officials did make one specific request, to facilitate greater cooperation and coordination with federal authorities.

He also noted that the meetings were not intended as a substitute for meetings between the Holloway family and Aruban officials.

&8220;Meetings between the family representatives and Aruban officials were previously arranged and it is my understanding some of those meetings took place this week in Aruba,&8221; Bachus said.

&8220;Our thoughts and prayers remain with Natalee and with the Holloway family.&8221;