Six and a half years after she vanished in Aruba, Natalee Holloway was declared legally dead Thursday by a judge in Alabama.
Probate judge Alan King made the ruling at the request of Holloway’s father. King had ruled in September that Dave Holloway had met the legal presumption of death for his daughter – and King had set Thursday as the deadline for anyone to come forward and prove she didn’t die in Aruba.
Holloway’s attorney said there has been no new evidence since then.
The court ruling comes just one day after a longtime suspect in Holloway’s disappearance, Joran van der Sloot, pleaded guilty to the 2010 murder of another woman, Stephany Flores, in Peru.
Van der Sloot’s lawyer said the 24-year-old Dutchman had killed Flores as a result of the “extreme psychological trauma” he’d experienced in the Holloway investigation.
Dave Holloway, in tearful testimony last fall, said he made the request to settle his daughter Natalee’s estate and free up funds set aside for her education. Beth Holloway, Natalee’s mother and the former wife of Dave, had opposed the request.
“She was not able to, nor has she ever been able to, produce any evidence that Natalee was alive,” Beth’s attorney, John Q. Kelly, told PEOPLE. “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.”
But there was another motivation for fighting the declaration, Kelly said.
“Her life’s commitment now is working with other families with missing family members. She would lose her credibility with them if she were to give up hope for her own daughter.”