Judge to declare Natalee Holloway legally dead
Judge Alan King announced his decision at a hearing in his Birmingham courtroom Thursday attended by the missing woman's parents, David and Beth Holloway.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — An Alabama probate judge disclosed at a court hearing Thursday that he will sign an order declaring Natalee Holloway dead, more than six years after the teenager vanished on the Caribbean island of Aruba.
David Holloway told the judge in September he believed his daughter had died and he wanted to stop payments on her medical insurance and use her $2,000 college fund to help her younger brother. Thursday's hearing was set before a suspect questioned in Holloway's disappearance, Dutchman Joran van der Sloot, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Peru to the 2010 murder of a woman in Lima.
Natalee Holloway disappeared on a high school graduation trip May 30, 2005. She was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot early that day. Her body was never found, and the case garnered intense media scrutiny and international attention.
King acted on a petition by David Holloway to have the missing 18-year-old declared dead.
Her mother originally objected, but her lawyer, Charlie DeBardeleben, said she now had no objection.Natalee Holloway's parents were divorced in 1993 and Beth Holloway sat in the back row of the courtroom, mostly staring at her hands in her lap during the afternoon hearing. She declined comment when she entered the courtroom.
Mark White, an attorney for Dave Holloway, told the judge just before he announced his decision, that there was no evidence that Holloway was alive.
"Despite all that, no evidence has been found Natalee Holloway is alive," he told the judge, noting that exhaustive searches, blanket international media coverage and even the offer of rewards had turned up nothing new.
King had ruled in September that Dave Holloway had met the legal presumption of death for his daughter and it was up to someone to prove she didn't die on a high school graduation trip. He set the hearing for Thursday to allow time for anyone to come forward.
Dave Holloway said he was expecting to hear the judge would declare his daughter dead because he had no doubt about that.
"We've been dealing with her death for the last six and a half years," he said.
He added that the judge's order closes one chapter in a long story, but added: "We've still got a long way to go to get justice.
In Peru, Van der Sloot, 24, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the murder of a 21-year-old woman he met at a Lima casino.
Stephany Flores was killed five years to the day after Natalee Holloway, an 18-year-old from the wealthy Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook, disappeared. She was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot.
Shortly after Flores' death on May 30, 2010, van der Sloot told police he killed the woman in Peru in a fit of rage after she discovered on his laptop his connection to the disappearance of Holloway. Police forensic experts disputed the claim.
Beth Holloway's attorney, John Q. Kelly, had said earlier this week: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Flores family during these extraordinarily painful and public proceedings. We hope they find some measure of privacy, inner strength and peace as time goes by."
Kelly said that once van der Sloot is sentenced on Friday, he expected U.S. authorities would try to bring him to Alabama to face pending federal charges accusing him of extorting $25,000 from Beth Holloway to reveal the location of her body daughter's body in Aruba. Kelly went to Aruba for the revelation, but van der Sloot did not deliver.