Weeks after several highly publicized arrests in the case of a missing American teenager, Aruban prosecutors said Tuesday that they were dismissing the case against the three suspects in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway.
Prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to convict the three young men long suspected of involvement in her disappearance — Joran Van der Sloot and brothers Satish and Deepak Kalpoe.
"The investigation did not bring about sufficient evidence to convince a court of law that a crime of violence against Natalee Holloway has been committed," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.
Holloway's mother, Beth Twitty, is "extremely disappointed," said her brother Paul Reynolds. "It's hard to put into words the frustration that she feels."
"It's extremely disappointing to hear [prosecutors] say they had something and then two weeks later that they don't. It doesn't make sense and it causes one to question whether this decision is appropriate," Reynolds said.
After years with little news, Aruban authorities last month announced they had new evidence in the case, and re-arrested Van der Sloot and the Kalpoes. Prosecutors also said they had evidence that Holloway, whose body has never been found, was killed.
But, within weeks, a judge ordered all three suspects released, saying there was not enough evidence to continue to detain them. A court of appeal upheld that ruling, agreeing that there was not enough evidence to conclude that Holloway had died "due to a violent crime," the prosecutor's office said.
Hans Mos, the Aruban prosecutor, told ABC News today, "We did everything we could, but unfortunately we have had to accept that this did not have the desired result, namely a clarification of the case."
Prosecutors said they still believed the three men were involved in Holloway's death and they could reopen the case "if new serious evidence were to be found." The statute of limitations is six years for involuntary manslaughter and 12 years for homicide.
A spokesperson said that the prosecutor's office "looks at it as a cold case."
Van der Sloot and the Kalpoes are believed to be the last people to see Holloway alive. The men were last held as suspects two years ago, but they were released after a judge ruled there was not enough evidence to indict them in Holloway's disappearance.
Last month, Mos said that the new evidence against the three men, which defense attorneys have said was based on wiretaps, was compelling. "We are convinced if we had had this evidence we have now, they would not have been released by the court at that time," he said at the time.
Holloway was last seen leaving a nightclub with the three suspects May 30, 2005, just hours before she was to board a plane home with her Mountain Brook, Ala., classmates, who were on the island celebrating their high school graduation.
The case has an intriguing cast of characters: Van der Sloot, the comparatively privileged Dutch youth; his friends, the Kalpoe brothers; the aggrieved mother, Beth Twitty; the pressured Dutch prosecutors, inexperienced with such high-profile cases in a nation whose motto is "One Happy Island"; and Joseph Tacopina, the globe-trotting Italian-American defense attorney who is representing Van der Sloot.
A remarkable search effort, fueled at least in part by the global media coverage, was undertaken shortly after Holloway's disappearance. Aruban soldiers and hundreds of volunteers combed seemingly every inch of the tiny island in the summer of 2005, looking for any trace of the missing blond teen.
The FBI got involved, and Dutch F-16s with sophisticated search equipment peered down from the sky. A Texas search-and-rescue company called EquuSearch volunteered its resources and used its high-tech instruments to search the waters surrounding the island.
A deep sea search for Holloway's body was ongoing on Tuesday, Reynolds said. "We certainly would like to see some evidence discovered so it can point us in a particular direction," he said.
Ronald Wix, who represents the Kalpoe family, has told ABC News that the prosecutors' so-called new evidence essentially centers on a reexamination of old evidence from 2005 that was simply reviewed by a new team of investigators, using more current technology.
"What they did is, they took a lot of old evidence and presented it as new evidence," Wix said. "And how they argued that is, that, 'well, now we have state-of-the-art equipment that we didn't have back then to analyze this evidence, and now we're looking at the evidence differently, and that constitutes new evidence.' It's not."
The prosecutor's office "is more than aware of the fact that this result of the investigation is a tough burden to bear for the parents of Natalee Holloway," according to the statement. "After losing their daughter they have not been able to bring her back. Because of that important reason, amongst others, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Police have gone the extra mile and have exhausted all their powers and techniques, in order to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the girl."
With reporting from Chris Francescani, Brian Cohen and Andrea Beaumont