Another chapter in the Natalee Holloway disappearance case has been closed.
On Thursday, a Birmingham, AL judge officially declared the woman, who was 18-years-old when she disappeared during a high school graduation trip to the island of Aruba, dead, reports the Associated Press. The subsequent search quickly became a mass-media affair, becoming international news.
"We've been dealing with her death for the last six and a half years," her father, Dave Holloway said. He said that the judge's order helped, but added, "We've still got a long way to go to get justice.
Natalee was last seen leaving a bar in the early hours of May 30, 2005 with Joran van der Sloot. Her body was never found.
Sloot, who is still a suspect in Natalee's disappearance case, plead guilty Wednesday to the 2010 murder of Stephany Flores, whom he met at a casino in Lima.
Natalee's mother, Beth, who has been divorced from her father since 1993, was also in attendance for the hearing, though did not speak, according to the AP.
Dave requested the ruling on his daughter's death in September, saying he wished to stop payments for her medical insurance and also wanted to be able to transfer her $2,000 college fund over to her younger brother.
"No evidence has been found Natalee Holloway is alive," Dave's lawyer, Mark White, told the judge, noting that exhaustive searches, blanket international media coverage and even the offer of rewards had turned up nothing new.
The investigation of Natalee's death remains open, but the judge ruled in September that the legal presumption of death had been met, and it was now up to someone to prove she was alive.