California Lighthouse
Unsuccessful search parties looked for Natalee Holloway at the California Lighthouse in Aruba. Image: ClemUDelt/Flickr/CC BY-SA

A judge in Alabama has signed an order officially declaring Natalee Holloway dead. The ruling came at the petition of her father. Holloway disappeared more than six years ago while during on vacation in Aruba.

Parents in attendance Thursday

Probate Judge Alan King announced his decision in a Birmingham, Ala., courtroom Thursday afternoon. Holloway’s parents, Dave and Beth Holloway, were both in attendance.

Petition filed in September

Dave Holloway filed a petition to make Natlee’s death official in September. His ex-wife, Beth, opposed the petition at first. However, she has since recanted that opinion.

Judge King ruled in September that the qualifications for legal presumption of death had been met. Alabama state law requires a person be missing for a minimum of five years before they can be legally declared dead. However, King would not make it official until he gave interested parties some time to show evidence that Natalee Holloway was still alive. But no evidence came forward.

Dave Holloway’s attorney, Karen Hennecy, said that he wants his daughter declared dead so that he and his family can have closure. Also, he wants to use Natalee’s $2,000 college fund for her younger brother.

Beth Holloway’s attorney, John Q. Kelly, said in an interview with People magazine:

“She was not able to, nor has she ever been able to, produce any evidence that Natalee was alive. Nor has there ever been any evidence produced that she was dead. Beth’s position is that if there’s that one sliver of hope that she can carry in her heart that Natalee might be alive somewhere, she wants to do that.”

Mother agrees to petition

Another lawyer on Beth Holloway’s team, Charlie DeBardeleben, said that she has since had a change of heart, and now supports the petition. According to DeBardeleben, she now understands her ex-husband’s intentions and is “ready to move on from this.”

Dave and Beth Holloway were divorced in 1993 when Natalee was 6 years old.

Van der Sloot prime suspect in case

Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba on May 30, 2005. The then 18-year-old was last seen leaving a club with a Dutch honor student, Joran Van der Sloot.

Van der Sloot was arrested and questioned twice during the investigation of Natalee Holloway’s disappearance. But he was never charged because of lack of evidence.

On Wednesday, Van der Sloot confessed to the 2010 murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores. She was killed five years to the day after Natalee Holloway went missing. He claimed that he murdered Flores in a fit of rage when he caught her looking at his laptop.


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