Thursday, December 20, 2007

Requiem For Our Favorite Missing Blonde

Having concluded the other day that the subjects that I blog about are way too serious way too much of the time, I turn to the never ending saga of CNN's favorite missing blonde -- Natalee Holloway -- because it now actually may be ending.

The missing 18-year-old has been declared a "cold case" by Aruban police, which will bring tears to execs at CNN and other cable news stations that have feasted long and hard on the story.

For those of you who may have just awakened from a 900-day coma, Natalee disappeared in May 2005 on the last night of a trip to Aruba with her senior class from an Alabama high school. She was last seen leaving a bar with three primary suspects who lived on the Dutch resort island off of the coast of Venezuela and subsequently were detained and released more times than Lindsey Lohan as the investigation into her disappearance ebbed and flowed with the Caribbean tides.

The saga ruffled my sensibilities from the jump and not because my high school senior class trip was a cheapo one-day bus excursion to New York City.

As the father of a son and daughter who were once 18 years old, I had a hard time reconciling how a bunch of teenagers could be allowed to booze day and night (even if Arbua's drinking age is 18), do drugs, screw and otherwise carry on.

It turned out that Natalee was rip snorting drunk and had sex with at least one of the primary suspects. Before you could say "boffo Nielsen Ratings," this bimbette -- a straight-A student who apparently missed school the day common sense was taught -- had pushed the Iraq war and other major stories from the top of CNN’s newscasts. Beth Twitty, Natalee's beyond obnoxious mother and a fount of bad information, soon became as familiar a fixture on the station as Condoleezza Rice.

Police, soldiers, volunteers and tracking dogs combed hillsides and beaches of the 75-square-mile island. A pond was partially drained, a landfilled picked apart and the seabed offshore combed by divers. Dutch fighter jets equipped with search equipment conducted overflights.

Investigators interviewed hundreds of potential witnesses, but unlike their American counterparts would not talk to reporters on or off the record.

This really pissed off Nancy Grace, Greta van Susteren and other TV talking heads who proceeded to dump all over the Dutch legal system because it differed from the U.S. in some significant ways, and we know how perfect our system is. In retrospect, it is apparent that Natalee's mother and her posse from Alabama did as much to hamper the investigation as help it.

Having covered a goodly number of missing person and murder cases, my hunch is that in the absence of a body or even a shred of evidence of a crime, a bombed Natalee stumbled or fell off a cliff and into the ocean where she became shark chum. Were any of the three primary suspects present, let alone hands-on participants in her demise? Given that none of them have admitted as much after nearly three years of on again, off again grilling, I tend to doubt it.

Not a thrilling denouement. And certainly not one you'll hear about on CNN.

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