The mother of Natalee Holloway is suing Oxygen Media, claiming its 2017 television series about her daughter’s disappearance in Aruba was a fictional “farce” that caused unnecessary suffering.
Beth Holloway said in the lawsuit filed on Feb. 2 that the NBC-owned network and the Los Angeles-based production company Brian Graden Media made “knowingly false declarations” about her daughter’s disappearance.
The six-part series, “The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway,” was misleading in the airing of unconfirmed allegations and in claiming bone fragments purportedly found on Aruba could belong to her daughter, the suit alleges.
“The series was not a real-time or legitimate investigation into new leads,” according to the lawsuit. “The series was a pre-planned farce and its publication was outrageous.”
Natalee Holloway, 18, from Mountain Brook, Alabama, disappeared on May 30, 2005, while on a trip to Aruba to celebrate her high school graduation. Her body has never been found, and she’s presumed dead.
Oxygen promoted the series as “the latest and, perhaps, final chapter of the decade-long pursuit to uncover what really happened to Natalee.” It wasn’t.
In the days leading up to the Aug. 19, 2017, premiere, Natalee Holloway’s father, Dave Holloway, and private investigator T.J. Ward, announced the discovery of bone fragments.
“They are in the testing process,” Dave Holloway told HuffPost on Aug. 16, 2017. “It’s a reputable lab and that’s all I can tell you at this point.”
Ward said the discovery was the culmination of an 18-month investigation.
“It’s viable information,” Ward told HuffPost.
The claims brought denials from Aruba Public Prosecutor Dorean Kardol, who told HuffPost “no human remains” were found.
“During an investigation by police in an area indicated by Mr. Holloway, we found remains, but they were found to be from animals,” Kardol said.
The FBI told HuffPost they were unable to locate records of human remains being brought into the U.S. from Aruba in connection with the Natalee Holloway case.
The centerpiece of the Oxygen series was a man named John Ludwick, who has long claimed to be a close friend of Joran van der Sloot, who in 2005 was a 17-year-old Dutch honors student living in Aruba. Natalee Holloway’s classmates said they last saw her leaving a nightclub with van der Sloot before she vanished. Police repeatedly questioned him about the girl’s disappearance.
Ludwick, in the Oxygen series, told multiple fanciful stories about what had supposedly happened to Holloway and claimed he helped dig up and dispose of her remains years after her death. At one point in the Oxygen series, Ludwick pointed out bone fragments hidden in Aruba that supposedly belonged to Natalee Holloway.
The lawsuit filed by Beth Holloway contends she was not involved in the Oxygen series. As a result, in an effort to determine if anything new was actually uncovered, she had to watch the TV series. In doing so, she had to listen to claims that her daughter had been “drugged, raped, killed” and, according to Ludwick, that Natalee Holloway’s bones were ultimately exhumed, “crushed” and cremated.
Enduring the “heinous acts” portrayed in the Oxygen series “completely and utterly destroyed me,” Beth Holloway said, according to the lawsuit.
Van der Sloot did not participate in the Oxygen program. He is serving a 28-year prison sentence in Peru for the 2010 murder of 21-year-old Peruvian business student Stephany Flores Ramírez.
The Oxygen series concluded on Sept. 23, 2017, without divulging the results of the DNA testing on the bone fragments, saying the results were inconclusive. The results, which showed Natalee Holloway was not a match, were not released until Oct. 2 on Oxygen.com.
Beth Holloway said evidence exists showing the results were in fact known prior to the airing of the final episode.
“In truth, despite their representations ... defendants knew prior to concluding their Series that the Bone Fragments did not belong to Natalee,” the suit claims.
Beth Holloway’s lawsuit is not the first to be filed in connection with the Oxygen series. It’s also not the first time the credibility of the program has been questioned. HuffPost last year published several stories about the series, which raised troubling questions.
In early October 2017, HuffPost discovered sex offender Edward Kramer is claiming responsibility for the Oxygen series.
A science-fiction author, who co-founded the nationally known DragonCon science-fiction and fantasy convention, appeared in court in Gwinnett County, Georgia, on charges of molesting three boys, according to The Gwinnett Daily Post. Kramer, then 52, entered a so-called Alford plea ― a type of guilty plea that acknowledges the strength of the evidence but allows the defendant to maintain innocence ― to three counts of child molestation.
Kramer, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in California against Brian Graden Media and production company Lipstick Inc., claims he is “co-owner, developer and writer” of the Oxygen series. Kramer seeks unspecified “just compensation” for his work, plus punitive damages.
The two production companies said in a response that Kramer was an “employee or agent of T.J. Ward.”
Ward told HuffPost that Kramer indeed helped develop the Oxygen program.
“They relied on him for information and promised him certain things,” Ward said.
That same month, a man who identified himself as Eliot Benton told HuffPost he could arrange for Ludwick and Gabriel Madrigal, a man described in the Oxygen series as an “informant,” to reveal the actual location of Natalee Holloway’s remains.
“If the Huffington Post were interested, I’m pretty sure it could be arraigned,” Benton said. “If you came up with like $5,000 [and gave] $2,500 to Gabriel and $2,500 to John, that would probably cover it.”
The $5,000, Benton said, would be in addition to any travel expenses the men would incur in revealing the location of the bones. HuffPost does not pay for interviews and information.
Ward later added another twist to the developments: He said Benton doesn’t exist ― and Benton is really Edward Kramer.
He uses “his middle name and the [last name of a] girl he was living with,” Ward told HuffPost.
Ward said he was aware that Kramer is a registered sex offender and that Kramer had used the name Benton as an alias in press releases about Ward.
It’s unclear if Natalee Holloway’s father was aware that a registered sex offender was purportedly involved in the production of the Oxygen series.
Oxygen denies it tried to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.
“We were disappointed to learn of the complaint and its inaccurate depiction of how the series was produced, and we want to reiterate our deep compassion and sympathy for all members of the Holloway family,″ according to a statement provided to The Birmingham News by Oxygen Media.
“The documentary series was developed by a production company in close collaboration with Dave Holloway and his long-time private investigator,” the statement continued. “The show followed his continued search to find answers about his daughter Natalee from a lead he had received. We had hoped, along with Mr. Holloway, that the information was going to provide closure.”
While the show failed to provide the Holloway family closure, it did enrich some of the participants, according to Beth Holloway’s lawsuit. She is seeking $35 million in compensatory and punitive damages.