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Natalee Holloway officially declared dead

January 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A judge in Alabama officially declared Natalee Holloway dead on Thursday, six years after her disappearance.

Holloway vanished in Aruba in 2005 at the age of 18 during a high school graduation trip, but her body was never found. She was last seen with Joran van der Sloot, who was arrested twice in the case but never charged.

Her father made the request to have her declared legally dead.

"We've been dealing with her death for the last six and a half years," Dave Holloway said after a brief hearing. "We've still got a long way to go to get justice."

The hearing was scheduled long before van der Sloot 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, an 18-year-old from the wealthy Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook, disappeared.

Van der Sloot also faces federal charges accusing him of extorting $25,000 from mother Beth Holloway to reveal the location of her daughter's body.

Prosecutors said the money was paid, but nothing was disclosed about the missing woman's whereabouts.

Investigators have long worked from the assumption that the young woman was dead in Aruba, where the case was officially classified as a homicide investigation.

Dave 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.