Last year, John Ludwick claimed in a documentary that he helped dispose of the remains of Natalee Ann Holloway, an American teen whose 2005 disappearance in the Caribbean had become the subject of a made-for-TV movie and breathtaking headlines here and abroad.
Holloway has family ties to several cities in Arkansas, including Pine Bluff, El Dorado and Jonesboro,
Ludwick said in an Oxygen Network documentary series that he and Joran van der Sloot, the prime suspect in Holloway’s disappearance, had crushed the young woman’s bones until they were no longer recognizable as human remains. To get rid of her hair fibers, they burned her skull, dousing it in gasoline “in a fire pit in a cave,” he claimed.
Ludwick was never charged, and the remains did not belong to Holloway, after all: A forensic analysis showed that a bone sample recovered in Aruba could not have been Holloway’s remains, Oxygen reported in October, and Ludwick’s tenuous connection to the high-profile case seemed to have vanished.
His name didn’t surface in media reports for months — until this week, when he found himself at the center of a different tragedy.
Authorities in Florida said Ludwick tried to kidnap a young woman from her driveway - and was killed in the process.
Police in North Port, Florida, about 80 miles south of Tampa, said the woman stabbed Ludwick in self-defense after he tried to abduct her outside her home Wednesday morning.
Ludwick, a 32-year-old from Port Charlotte, ran away from the home but was found with stab wounds nearby, police said. He died at a hospital.
Investigators did not say why Ludwick tried to kidnap the woman but said the two knew each other. She has not been charged in the fatal stabbing; police said the investigation “is ongoing.”
Holloway was an 18-year-old high school senior from Alabama when she vanished in May 2005, during a class trip to Aruba, a small Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela.
Van der Sloot, a teenager at the time, was seen with Holloway the night she vanished, and was subsequently arrested twice on suspicion that he was responsible. But he was released on both occasions because of a lack of evidence and was never charged in connection to Holloway’s death.
Van der Sloot is now in prison, serving a 28-year sentence for the murder of a 21-year-old Peruvian business student who was found dead in Lima.
Holloway’s disappearance remains unsolved, but a strong lead appeared to surface last year.
From late August to early September, Oxygen aired “The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway,” a six-part documentary series that followed Holloway’s father and a private investigator he had hired to look into his daughter’s disappearance.
The fifth episode of the series featured the private investigator, TJ Ward, interviewing Ludwick about his alleged role in disposing of Holloway’s body.
Ludwick claimed that her remains had been buried in Aruba, and said van der Sloot paid him $1,500 to exhume the remains in 2010.
“Well, originally, (van der Sloot) had discussed getting it cremated, but at that time it wasn’t legal, but apparently some places would do it for pets,” Ludwick told Ward, avoiding eye contact with the private investigator.
Ludwick said he and van der Sloot spent hours crushing Holloway’s bones and later burned her skull.
Bone fragments found in Aruba were later tested by a forensic scientist who was working with the producers of the documentary.
But Oxygen later reported that the mitochondrial DNA bone sample did not match one provided by the teen’s mother, Beth Holloway.
In February, Beth Holloway filed a$35 million federal lawsuit against Oxygen and its production company, Brian Graden Media. The network, according to the complaint, “preyed and capitalized on Beth’s desperate need and desire to find her daughter” by falsely claiming to have found the teen’s remains and persuading Holloway to provide DNA samples for testing.
The show’s producers, the lawsuit claimed, did not tell Holloway that the testing was part of a television show.
The documentary series was not a real investigation into new leads about the teen’s disappearance, the lawsuit states, but, rather, a scripted, “pre-planned farce” designed for the network’s profit.
“As agonizing weeks passed, Beth was forced to watch - along with the rest of the world - episode after episode, headline after headline, to discover what horrors had befallen her daughter, while Defendants used Beth’s DNA on their farcical show without her permission and under the guise of conducting a legitimate search for Natalie,” the lawsuit states.
Investigators in Florida said this week that they were aware of Ludwick’s claims about his alleged role surrounding Holloway’s disappearance.
The Washington Post’s Kyle Swenson contributed to this report.