Aruba Search Scaled Back

Civilians search in coordination with Dutch marines search for Natalee Holloway, 18, an Alabama high school graduate who disappeared while she was on a five-day graduation trip to Aruba, along the southeastern shore of Aruba in Seroe Colorado, Monday June 6, 2005. AP

Accidental death has not been ruled out in the case of a missing Alabama honors student whose fate remains a mystery despite the arrest of two suspects known to police for trying to pick up women in hotels in this Dutch Caribbean territory, authorities said Tuesday.

Police and FBI agents kept up a 9-day-old search for 18-year-old Natalee Holloway, but a lack of any solid leads is hindering progress, said several officers involved in the investigation.

A massive search involving more than 700 volunteers on the southeastern tip of Aruba — where the two suspects were arrested in their home Sunday — yielded no leads Monday. More than 4,000 civil servants who had been given the day off and encouraged to volunteer returned to work Tuesday. Police officers have complained that Aruba has several drug-sniffing dogs but few trained to search for people.

Alabama native Patrick Murphy flew to Aruba from his home in Grand Cayman.

"It all came down to a person from my hometown and a mother pleading for help," Murphy told CBS News Correspondent Kelly Cobiella. "I mean, who wouldn't come?"

Authorities had not ruled out any possibilities, including that Holloway may have drowned, Aruba Attorney General Caren Janssen said. Two divers were among the eight FBI agents helping in the hunt, but it was not immediately clear if they had begun an underwater search.

The two men in custody were former security guards for a hotel two blocks from the Holiday Inn where Holloway had been staying. Their work contracts had expired the day before she disappeared, a police officer told The Associated Press. A judge was to decide on Wednesday if authorities had sufficient grounds to continue holding them, Janssen said. Police have refused to reveal the charges against them.

The guards were known to police because they had a habit of going around to hotels trying to pick up women or bum cigarettes, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Police policy prohibits authorities from discussing details of an investigation before they are presented in court.

The officer said several islanders told police that the men were seen hanging out frequently at different hotels talking to female tourists trying to pick them up in a friendly manner. No complaints had been filed against the men.

  • Scott Benjamin

Comments