Natalee Holloway Declared Dead by Birmingham Judge
Earlier this month, Natalee Holloway’s parents, Dave Holloway and Beth Holloway, sat somberly in a Birmingham, Alabama courtroom while a judge declared their daughter dead. Natalee disappeared on a high school graduation trip to Aruba in May of 2005. The 18 year-old was last seen leaving a bar with Joran van der Sloot, who remains the prime suspect in her disappearance. Her body has never been found. Van der Sloot was in the news earlier this week on an unrelated case-he was sentenced to 28 years behind bars for the murder of Stephany Flores, a woman he met in a Lima, Peru casino.
Alabama Law Regarding the Presumption of Death
Alabama Code 43-8-6 governs evidence as to death or status, establishes what demonstrates a presumption of death, and sets forth the following rules related to determination of death and status:
- A certified or authenticated copy of a death certificate purporting to be issued by an official or agency of the place where the death purportedly occurred is prima facie proof of the fact, place, date and time of death and the identity of the decedent;
- A certified or authenticated copy of any record or report of a governmental agency, domestic or foreign, that a person is missing, detained, dead, or alive is prima facie evidence of the status and of the dates, circumstances and places disclosed by the record or report;
- A person who is absent for a continuous period of five years, during which he has not been heard from, and whose absence is not satisfactorily explained after diligent search or inquiry is presumed to be dead. His death is presumed to have occurred at the end of the period unless there is sufficient evidence for determining that death occurred earlier.
Judge Rules Family Met Burden of Showing Holloway is Deceased
Natalee’s parents were divorced in 1993, and when Natalee’s father, Dave, initially filed the petition to have his daughter declared dead, Natalee’s mother, Beth, objected. Dave explained to the judge in a hearing in September that he wanted to stop payments on Natalee’s medical insurance and use her $2,000 college fund to help her younger brother. Beth Holloway withdrew her objection once she understood her ex-husband’s intentions.
In the hearing in September, Judge King ruled that Dave Holloway had met the legal presumption of death for his daughter and that it was up to someone else to prove that Natalee did not die on the trip to Aruba. The judge set the hearing for this month to allow time for anyone to come forward with new information. When no such information was forthcoming, the judge ruled Natalee was deceased.