The mother of missing teen Natalee Holloway is clinging to a faint hope that her daughter, who disappeared in 2005, is still alive and is fighting a petition by her ex-husband to have Natalee legally presumed dead.
"Even if it's a one in a million chance, she wants to always have that sliver of hope," said Beth Holloway's attorney, John Q. Kelly, after a court hearing today over the contentious petition.
"She doesn't want to be in the position where Natalee could show up one day and ask, 'Why did you give up on me?'" he said.
Kelly and the girl's mother, Beth Holloway, did not attend a court hearing today on a petition brought by Natalee's father Dave Holloway to have her declared dead. Beth Holloway and Kelly had previously scheduled travel plans.
"We had made an application for an adjournment so we could have Beth there to testify and to prepare proper opposition for evidence for the court hearing," Kelly said.
The judge decided to move forward with Dave Holloway's petition and to begin the process of declaring Natalee dead. As part of that process, the public will be given notice and any one with evidence that Natalee may still be alive may testify in court hearings, according to Dave Holloway's attorney Mark White.
"This family I don't think will have real personal closure, but what we can give them is real legal closure," White said. "That's what this procedure is designed to do."
"Mr. Holloway testified, and it was a painful experience for him and for the people in courtroom. It was a tough tough day in court, watching him have to recount what he's gone through and what the family has gone through in last several years," White said.
Dave Holloway recounted for the judge the last time he saw his daughter alive, on the night of her high school graduation shortly before she went to Aruba, and the efforts undertaken to find her, including criminal investigations, and the FBI's declaration of the case as a homicide, White said. Holloway had to pause throughout his testimony because of the emotional difficulty, he said.
White noted that there are legal issues tied to Natalee's status as still living, including a college fund set up in her name that holds $2,000, and life insurance premiums that Dave Holloway continues to pay on his daughter. With his son in college, he is seeking, in part, to be able to use Natalee's college fund, White said.
Dave Holloway filed papers in June in probate court in Birmingham to have his daughter declared legally dead, citing the fact she had not been seen or heard from for more than five years and that it was reasonable to assume she had died.
The court papers stated that Natalee left an estate "estimated to be worth approximately $500 and probably not more."
Kelly called the father's petition "inexplicable," and said that Beth Holloway is not ready to have her daughter declared dead because of the slim chance she might still be alive somewhere.
Natalee Holloway was 17 when she disappeared in Aruba while on a senior class trip. She did not return to her hotel after a night out at a bar, and was last seen with a group of local young men, including the main suspect in her disappearance, Joran van der Sloot.
Despite Beth Holloway's determination to cling to a hope that her daugher is alive, she agreed a couple years ago to pay van der Sloot cash in exchange for information about what he did with her body. Van der Sloot later admitted lying to Kelly, who was making the trade for Holloway.
Van der Sloot has since admitted on a hidden video tape that he disposed of Natalee's body, a statement that he later retracted. He has also been arrested in Peru and charged with the murder of another woman.
Beth Holloway has been relentless in her efforts to find out what happened to her daughter, even slipping into a Peruvian prison to confront van der Sloot.
Kelly said that Beth Holloway's refusal to allow Natalee to be declared dead also lends emotional support to so many other families in similar situations, counseling them not to give up hope, and that she therefore could not give up hope herself.