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Law

Judge orders suspects held in teen's disappearance

Ruling allows detention of men for 8 days


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Holloway is a straight-A student and a member of the National Honor Society.
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Aruba

ORANJESTAD, Aruba (CNN) -- An Aruban judge ruled there was enough evidence to continue holding two suspects in the disappearance of an 18-year-old Alabama woman for another eight days to allow for more evidence gathering in the case.

The hearings for Micky John, 30, and Abraham Jones, 28, were expected to take place in a courtroom, but were moved to a police station because of the extensive media coverage and political pressure surrounding the search for Natalee Holloway.

Holloway, from the Birmingham, Alabama, suburb of Mountain Brook, has been missing since early May 30. She was in Aruba with about 100 classmates and parent chaperones to celebrate high school graduation.

Hundreds of volunteers have taken part in the massive search for her and posted missing fliers around Aruba.

Her stepfather, George "Jug" Twitty, said the family remains hopeful Holloway -- a straight-A student who earned a full scholarship to attend the University of Alabama -- is still alive.

"There was a period there, after about the third day, that you think, 'Well, definitely something has happened. They may find her somewhere,'" Twitty told CNN's "American Morning."

"But as we go further into it, and there's no physical evidence, nobody can provide any evidence of foul play at this time, it gives us hope that maybe somebody is holding her somewhere. That's the only hope I can have."

Acting on a tip, police on Sunday arrested Jones and John in the oil-refining town of San Nicolas. Chris Lejuez, the defense attorney for one of the men, told CNN that authorities have mentioned charging the men with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, homicide, conspiracy to commit homicide, and kidnapping leading to death.

"Both of them are very concerned," he said. "They are nervous. They know they are being suspected of something very heavy, very serious, but they are confident, both of them. And they have shown that confidence to me, that they very categorically deny being involved in this case."

The men worked at the Hotel Allegro, in Oranjestad near the Holiday Inn where Holloway was staying.

Lejuez said that neither man was working the night Holloway vanished. He said the men have no previous criminal history.

"They have both denied very categorically knowing Natalee Holloway or having any contact with her," he said. "All they know about her is what they read and saw in the paper."

Jones' girlfriend, Cynthia De Graf, told CNN outside the courthouse that he is innocent. She and Jones were out partying together on the night the Alabama teenager disappeared, then returned home together, she said. Jones was sick later that night, she said, but arrived at work in time for his 7 a.m. shift the following day.

Prosecution spokesman Vivian van der Biezen said Tuesday authorities have a "reasonable suspicion" the men were involved in Holloway's disappearance, but would not elaborate on evidence gathered in the investigation and would not confirm what charges could be filed against the men.

Twitty said he had not heard about any possible charges from authorities, but "I do believe Natalee is alive. And every day that goes by gives us even more hope that Natalee is alive."

Meanwhile, "we're trying to be strong," he said Wednesday. "It's been incredibly tough. This is a difficult situation that I hope no other mother or father has to ever experience. Basically, we've said our prayers. We pray together to try to stay strong and get through this ordeal."

Lejuez told CNN he has not seen any forensic evidence. What he has seen, he said, includes statements from "certain witnesses who have seen certain people" who might be the two men. But none of those witnesses, he said, confirmed seeing Holloway with the men.

Lejuez said he expected prosecutors to request that the two be detained for another eight days. Van der Biezen said Tuesday prosecutors would not take that step if the evidence against the men was purely circumstantial.

Twitty said authorities have been forthcoming with Holloway's relatives. "It's just that the laws in Aruba are different, and the way they do their investigations is totally different than they do in the United States. It's difficult, it's frustrating, but on the other hand I do feel like they're doing everything they can do to try to find Natalee."

Holloway, a straight-A student who had won a full scholarship to attend the University of Alabama, was last seen leaving the Oranjestad nightclub Carlos N' Charlie's about 1:30 a.m. May 30, in a car accompanied by three local men. Those three told police they took her to a nearby beach before returning her to her hotel about 2 a.m. Monday. (Profile)

Authorities are investigating whether the suspects have any connection to those three men -- something Lejuez denied Wednesday. Police have received more than 200 tips regarding Holloway's disappearance, and a $55,000 reward has been offered for information leading to her whereabouts.

Twitty and Holloway's mother, Beth Holloway Twitty, have vowed they are not leaving Aruba without her.

"The time doesn't matter," Twitty said Wednesday. "We're going to find her."

CNN's Karl Penhaul and Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.



Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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