Only a month ago, a friend of Rafael Vertiz told him about a Dutch man suspected in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway. Now the same man, Joran van der Sloot, is being sought in the vicious murder of Vertiz’s 21-year-old cousin, Stephany Flores, in Peru.
Vertiz had just learned of his cousin’s death on Wednesday, when police in Peru discovered her battered body in a Lima hotel room registered to van der Sloot. Still in shock over the murder and the eerie coincidence of van der Sloot’s suspected involvement, he spoke via satellite to TODAY’s Meredith Vieira from Miami Thursday.
Vertiz told Vieira that when relatives called to tell him about Stephany, he immediately called the friend who had told him about seeing a TV report about van der Sloot. “I called her and I told her. I was shocked. It was unbelievable that this was happening to our family, the same person,” Vertiz said.
The death has hit the family hard, he added. “We’re destroyed by it. She was our little cousin. She was full of life. It’s hard to believe.”
Stephany Flores was last seen early Monday on hotel surveillance video in the company of the 22-year-old van der Sloot. A hotel worker reported seeing the couple enter van der Sloot’s room around 5 a.m. Four hours later, van der Sloot, who had been in Lima since May 14 while participating in a poker tournament, left the hotel and took a bus out of the country to Chile.