BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The parents of Natalee Holloway looked on somberly as a judge declared their child dead Thursday, more than six years after the American teenager vanished during a high school graduation trip to Aruba.
"We've been dealing with her death for the last 61/2 years," Dave Holloway said after a brief hearing. He said the judge's order closes one chapter in a long ordeal, but added: "We've still got a long way to go to get justice.
Natalee Holloway disappeared May 30, 2005. The 18- year-old was last seen leaving a bar in Aruba early that morning with a young Dutchman, Joran van der Sloot. Her body was never found and the ensuing searches for the young woman reaped intense media scrutiny.
Yesterday's hearing was scheduled long before van der Sloot, questioned in Holloway's disappearance, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Peru to the 2010 murder of a woman he met at a casino in Lima. Stephany Flores, 21, was killed five years to the day after Holloway, from the Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook, disappeared. Shortly after Flores' death on May 30, 2010, van der Sloot told police he killed her in a fit of rage after she discovered on his laptop his connection to the disappearance of Holloway. Forensic experts disputed the claim.
Dave Holloway said 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 for her younger brother. Her mother, Beth, objected, then changed her mind once she understood her husband's intentions. The couple was divorced in 1993. -- AP