BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The father of missing Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway is asking a court to declare his daughter dead, six years after she vanished during a graduation trip to Aruba.
Mississippi insurance agent Dave Holloway filed the request in probate court earlier this summer, but court officials said Wednesday it could be months before any decision is reached.
Holloway wrote in a sworn statement that it was his "painful" belief that his daughter is dead and recounted the years spent investigating her baffling disappearance in 2005. He said there was no evidence to suggest Natalee is either alive or that she had run away from home.
"Prior to her trip to Aruba, Natalee had no medical issues, psychological issues or family issues," the statement said.
Holloway's body was never found despite extensive searches both on Aruba and in the waters off the coast of the Caribbean island. The request said the teenager didn't have a will and owned about $500 worth of personal property; it did not mention any life insurance policy.
An initial hearing on Holloway's request is set for Sept. 23, and state law mandates a second hearing before a decision is issued. Officials said Alabama law also requires that the request be advertised for months, meaning it could be after the first of the year before a final decision is issued.
The father's lawyer, Karen Hennecy, said Holloway "is seeking closure for this family."
"This is a normal proceeding for families when a loved one has been missing for an extended period of time," Hennecy said.
The missing woman's mother, Beth Holloway, said she was surprised her ex-husband filed the request.
"I only learned about this when I was handed the citation by a process server while addressing a large audience at a conference in Georgia," she said in a statement. "I don't know what this is about, or why Dave is taking this action at this time."
A spokeswoman for Beth Holloway declined comment on whether she would oppose the petition.
Authorities said former Aruba resident Joran van der Sloot remains the prime suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of Holloway, an 18-year-old Alabama graduate he met in a casino on Aruba while she was traveling with friends from Mountain Brook, a wealthy enclave in suburban Birmingham. Van der Sloot confessed and recanted a role in Holloway's disappearance several times, and he is now charged in the death of a young woman killed in Peru.
Van der Sloot also faces federal charges in Birmingham for allegedly attempting to extort money from the Holloway family in exchange for information involving the whereabouts of her remains.