An Alabama judge declared Natalee Holloway legally dead Thursday after her father petitioned for the motion, which comes nearly seven years after her 2005 disappearance in Aruba.
Dave Holloway filed the petition to have her declared dead in June, his attorney said, because he was “seeking closure for his family,” CNN reported. He also wants the $2000 he set aside for a college fund intended for his daughter to go to her younger brother. His ex-wife Beth, who is Holloway’s mother, says she is continuing to hold out hope for her return, but is not fighting the legal procedure.
Jefferson County, Ala., Probate Judge Alan King signed the order at the end of a hearing, which was attended by Natalee’s parents. Family attorney Mark White suggested the move will point toward the disappearance being a homicide.
“We intend to point out the fact that the person who we believe is responsible for this tragedy is now an adjudicated killer,” Birmingham’s WIAT reported. He told King during the hearing that there was no evidence that Holloway was alive after several searches over the years turned up nothing.
The person the family believes is responsible is Joran van der Sloot, a Dutch national who Natalee Holloway left an Aruban restaurant with during a vacation to celebrate her high school graduation. When she failed to make her flight home, police questioned van der Sloot and two other men, but they denied knowing her whereabouts. He was arrested twice on suspicion, but released due to lack of evidence and has never been charged. No trace of Natalee has ever been found.
On Wednesday, van der Sloot did plead guilty to the murder of a Peruvian student, Stephany Flores, who his lawyers said he killed when she found material on his laptop related to Holloway. Michael Helfand, who runs the legal website Findgreatlawyers.com, says says he will likely remain imprisoned in Peru for the remainder of his life and will likely not be extradited to the U.S. to face trial even if Holloway’s death is declared a homicide.
“I don’t think an extradition from Peru will ever happen,” he said. “I can’t imagine he’s ever going to get out of that Peruvian jail.”