TODAY   |  June 20, 2010

Van der Sloot’s mom: Joran ‘sick in his head’

Joran van der Sloot –  accused of murdering a 21-year-old Lima student and long suspected in the disappearance of an American teenager in Aruba – remains locked behind bars in Peru, but his mother is breaking her silence. NBC’s Michelle Koskinski reports.

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LESTER HOLT, co-host: Joran van der Sloot remains locked behind bars in Peru this morning, and his mother is breaking her silence for the first time , speaking to a Dutch newspaper. NBC 's Michelle Kosinski joins us from Lima , Peru , with the details. Michelle , good morning.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI reporting: Good morning, Lester . This has been such a case of strange coincidences and missed opportunities. For example, last month, we know, Joran van der Sloot was allegedly caught in the act of extortion, but not arrested. And now his mother is speaking out, saying that he was set to be hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic , but two days before he was supposed to leave he came here instead, where all of this has now happened. Peruvian prison officials say Joran van der Sloot seems to be doing all right, sociable and calm, but is eager to see his mother. She, though, now says, "I will not visit him in his cell. I cannot embrace him." Speaking for the first time in years to reporters, Anita van der Sloot tells the Dutch paper De Telegraaf that Joran is "not a monster," is "sick in his head. But he wanted no help." Describing him as severely mentally distressed and declining, especially after the death of his father from a heart attack in February, for which, she says, he blamed himself. She tells the paper that Joran finally agreed to be committed to a psychiatric clinic in Holland , but two days before he was supposed to leave, he instead took off for Peru , leaving behind a note saying "`I'm gone. Do not worry.' Next time she saw her eldest son was when he was handcuffed by the Peruvian police and shown on TV . For years she stood behind him. `I believed Joran . Despite his many lies. I felt we nothing to do with the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in 2005 . He had left her on the beach. I still believe that.' But she also says, ` Stephany , he may have killed.'" Anita van der Sloot says when she heard from Joran in South America , even before Stephany Flores ' murder in his hotel room, he sounded paranoid, felt he was being followed.

Ms. ANITA VAN DER SLOOT: He's doing OK.

KOSINSKI: In part, she seems to blame herself, that after he was suspected in Natalee Holloway 's disappearance, "We then made a big mistake. We sent him to the Netherlands to study. He should have gone for treatment in a closed clinic. He already needed psychiatric help back then." Later, she tells reporters, Joran became addicted to poker. She says she told him to turn himself in when she learned police were after him in Peru saying now, "If he has killed Stephany , then he must bear the burden. My wish is that he is treated humanely and that he gets psychological help." Prison officials say Joran has shown no sign of psychological problems or anxiety, and the police psychiatric evaluation described him as cold and

calculating. Lester: Michelle , are you hearing anything about how his legal defense is stacking up?

HOLT: They have given very few details, but it was interesting because in the beginning, allegedly van der Sloot rejected his first two appointed attorneys, then he had a third one who quit for a day or two, and now he's

KOSINSKI: