Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, October 4, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Missing Girl’s Mom Sues Oxygen Network for $35 Million

The mother of Natalee Holloway, the Alabama girl who disappeared in Aruba in 2005 during a high school graduation trip, filed a $35 million lawsuit over Oxygen’s six-part series about Natalee’s father searching for her remains, calling the show “a pre-planned farce.”

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) – The mother of Natalee Holloway, the Alabama girl who disappeared in Aruba in 2005 during a high school graduation trip, filed a $35 million lawsuit over Oxygen’s six-part series about Natalee’s father searching for her remains, calling the show “a pre-planned farce.”

Beth Holloway, who lives in Jefferson County, Alabama, alleges in her complaint filed Friday in Birmingham federal court that she was misled into providing her DNA to compare to bone fragments found in Aruba.

She sued Oxygen Media and Brian Graden Media over the show “The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway,” which aired last year.

Claiming fraudulent misrepresentation, Holloway seeks $10 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages. She is represented by Atlanta attorney L. Lin Wood and Alabama attorney Elizabeth Littell Courson with Beasley Allen.

The complaint also states that Holloway suffered emotional distress because she watched the show hoping to learn news of her daughter, but instead had to endure gruesome descriptions of what happened to Natalee, which the mother says are false.

According to the lawsuit, Oxygen and Brian Graden Media “made the knowingly false declarations that they had discovered how Natalee died, where she was buried, that her body was exhumed five years after her death, and that her remains were then desecrated.”

“Defendants published – and made Beth hear, watch, and read – that: Natalee was likely drugged, raped, killed, and her body buried after her legs were ‘cracked’ so she could fit in a burlap sack that would hold her buried body; that five years later, after being ‘dug up,’ her remains were ‘crushed’ and ‘pummeled . . . throughout a few hours’ ‘to the point it was not recognizable’; her skull was ‘doused in gasoline in a fire pit’ ‘to burn the hair fibers’; and her crushed bones were then mixed with a dog’s before being ‘cremated,’” the complaint states.

Holloway says Oxygen knew those descriptions were lies and that the six-part series “was a pre-planned farce.”

In May 2005, Natalee, then 18, traveled to Aruba with about 120 other classmates from Mountain Brook High School for a senior trip. She was last seen around 1:30 a.m. on the day the group was supposed to head back to the states. She had gotten into a car with Deepak Kalpoe, Satish Kalpoe and Joran van der Sloot.

In the weeks following her disappearance, the story drew international attention and the land and waters around Aruba were searched for her body.

In 2012, a judge declared Natalee dead at the request of her father, but her mother disagreed with the move. According to the complaint, Holloway continues to pray that she will be safely returned.

“The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway” featured Natalee’s father going to Aruba with a private investigator to search for his daughter’s remains after he purportedly discovered a new lead that could explain what happened to Natalee.

Holloway claims Oxygen and Brian Graden Media took advantage of her desperate need to find her daughter by claiming they may have found Natalee’s remains as a basis to obtain her DNA. She says she never gave permission to use her DNA on the show.

According to the complaint, the series said a man by the name of John Ludwick exhumed Natalee’s body five years later at the request of van der Sloot. Ludwick allegedly crushed Natalee’s bones, burned her skull and mixed her remains with those of a dog’s.

The show also claimed van der Sloot gave Natalee drugs before she overdosed and choked on her own vomit. He then allegedly stuffed her in a burlap sack and buried her in a national park.

Van der Sloot is currently serving a prison sentence in Peru for the 2010 death of another woman, Stephany Flores Ramírez.

The complaint alleges Natalee’s father, Ludwick, the private investigator and the forensic scientist featured on the show were paid participants who signed non-disclosure agreements. And while the series was billed as a documentary, it was actually scripted, Holloway claims.

“Accordingly, Beth was forced to watch a six-part series, hanging on every word, believing it to be real, when in fact the series was a farce,” the complaint states. “Defendants’ conduct was further outrageous in that defendants concluded their series without disclosing the results of the DNA testing on the bone fragments.”

An Oxygen spokesperson said in a statement, “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. The documentary series was developed by a production company in close collaboration with Dave Holloway and his long-time private investigator. 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.”

Brian Graden Media did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment made over the weekend. Holloway’s attorney, Wood, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit comes weeks after NBC Universal Cable Entertainment announced that after Oxygen’s branding last year to focus on “high quality crime programming” aimed at women, it became the fastest-growing network in cable. The announcement cited “The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway” as a factor in the network’s success.

Friday’s complaint is not the first time Holloway has turned to the courts. In 2012, she filed suit against the National Enquirer claiming that it invaded her privacy by publishing stories, headlines and photos alleging Natalee was buried alive, along with a bogus confession from her supposed killer.

“Defendants invaded Holloway’s privacy through an invasion of her emotional sanctum,” the 2012 complaint stated.

Follow @jcksndnl
Categories / Entertainment, National

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.